Sharapova says she'd consider early retirement
Saturday January 13, 8:21 PM
MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) - Australian Open top seed Maria Sharapova has said she will consider early retirement when she loses her motivation for top-level tennis and wants to start a family.
The 19-year-old Russian world No.2 said she was still hungry for more Grand Slams but would eventually examine the option taken by Kim Clijsters, who will retire at the end of the year aged 24 to have children and settle down.
"As long as I have the motivation, I'll definitely be playing," Sharapova said. "But I definitely think there are a lot of other things in life than tennis. I want to have a family, of course. I want to try other things in my career.
"Yeah, I can definitely see myself retiring at that age."
Sharapova, who made the semi-finals for the second time in Melbourne last year despite carrying an injury, said she wanted to maintain the momentum built up with her US Open win last September.
"I'm just ready to take it to the next level, hopefully get to the final or win it," she said Saturday.
"I'm glad that I could take the confidence that I played with at the (US) Open and take it through the end of the year, and hopefully start with that."
The Florida-based teen ended 2006 ranked a career-best world number two after a 19-match winning streak that was only ended by Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne in the last tournament of the season.
Success at Flushing Meadows brought Sharapova's second Grand Slam, following the Wimbledon title she won in 2004.
She has had relatively little preparation heading into Melbourne, limiting herself to the Champions Challenge in Hong Kong, where world No.5 Clijsters beat her in the final.
"I always like to take a week off with just training before a Grand Slam," she said.
"That's worked for me pretty well. I don't think I could physically play four, five matches and in two days start a two-week Grand Slam. I just don't think I'm ready for that yet."
Sharapova said her status as top seed would give her opponents extra motivation at the Australian Open, where she faces France's Camille Pin in the first round.
"The level of women's tennis right now is pretty high. I think a lot of people would want to beat the No.1 seed," she said.
"It's just a matter of going out there and coming out with a win."
Sharapova said she would not be wearing the powder-blue dress resembling a baby-doll nightie she sported at last year's tournament.
"Fashion-wise? I'm not doing baby doll any more. Baby doll has gone out the window," she said.
Instead, Sharapova will consolidate her position as the tour's glamour drawcard by wearing a high-waisted lemon-coloured chiffon number with a bow and "a little corset detail in the back".
"It's a pretty classy dress," she said.