Former world No.1 Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the season opening Australian women's hardcourt tournament starting on the Gold Coast on January 1.
The glamorous Russian 18-year-old has strained her right shoulder and is hoping to be fit enough for the first grand slam of the year - the Australian Open - in Melbourne starting January 16.
Sharapova suffered the injury in the second half of this season after she became the first Russian-born female to reach world No.1.
She reached at least the quarterfinals at all 15 events she played - falling to the eventual champion at all four majors.
Sharapova did play during her tour of Japan this week that included several exhibition matches with Japan's Ai Sugiyama plus lucrative sponsor appearances - including the debut of a special pink mobile phone in her honour - and the presentation of her own personal perfume and new watch line.
"I am very disappointed to have to withdraw because my right shoulder is not yet ready to allow me to compete at the tour level," said Sharapova in a statement.
"I hope to be able to play (there) in 2007, and will be doing everything possible in consultation with my doctors to be healthy enough to play the Australian Open.
"I have spent the offseason training and preparing both on and off the court for the 2006 season. After testing my shoulder this week, my doctors have concluded that it is not yet ready for tour competition.
"The number one priority for me at this time is getting 100 per cent healthy to compete again."
Despite Sharapova's withdrawal the Gold Coast should still be a marquee event with the return from retirement of Swiss former world No.1 Martina Hingis.
Hingis will play on the Gold Coast and Sydney before the Australian Open.
Dec 24th, 2005, 06:33 AM
I don't understand why some players want to play exhibition during the break season :rolleyes: