Tennis: Grand Slam my dream goal, says top seed
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova says being able to win a Grand Slam tournament this year would be the biggest feat of her career.
The headline act at this week's ASB Classic in Auckland, the 23-year-old Sharapova has three major titles to her name.
"Absolutely, I would love to," she said when asked about her hopes of adding to that collection during 2011.
"If I'm able to win a Grand Slam after my injury, it would be my greatest achievement in my career."
Sharapova's last victory in a major was the 2008 Australian Open, but injuries have hampered her game in recent times.
Later that year, she had surgery to her right shoulder, which meant a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
In her comeback on the circuit, she has had to adjust what had been a strength, her serve.
"It's one of those things that comes with time and you build on it," she said.
"I've had to change it a few times to accommodate the shoulder and obviously that's not the best case scenario to do in the middle of your career."
The former world No 1 begins the new season ranked at 18, still high enough to make her the Classic's top seed.
Sharapova is rated by Forbes magazine as the world's top-earning female athlete, and her combination of photogenic qualities and tennis talent make her a huge drawcard.
Her first-round match today is part of the day session, which organisers said was a sellout, with all 3200 centre court tickets snapped up.
Her opponent is Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, the world No 57, whom she has not faced before.
Sharapova said she chose the Auckland tournament because she wanted to make a switch to her pre-Australian Open schedule.
Last year, when she lost in the opening round in Melbourne, her build-up comprised exhibition events.
This time around, with her last competitive tennis match having been three months ago, she was eager to get back into tournament mode early.
"I wanted to change it up this year," she said.
"It's my first time in New Zealand. I've heard many great things about the tournament from other players. When I thought about playing a tournament event, this one was on the top of my list."
As part of her bid to climb back up the tennis ladder, Sharapova has hired Swede Thomas Hogstedt, who came on board last month to work with her longtime coach, Michael Joyce.
"It's nice to bring in someone with a fresh perspective ... and it's been really good."