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Old Dec 27th, 2011, 11:36 PM   #3501
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Re: ** Masha News and Articles! ** Vol. 2

Hobart chance to lure Russian Maria by: Adam Smith From: The Mercury December 28, 2011 9:05AM Increase Text SizeDecrease Text

RUSSIAN glamour girl Maria Sharapova could make a shock appearance at the Moorilla Hobart International next month.
The three-time Grand Slam champion withdrew from the Brisbane International which kicks off this Sunday on Christmas Eve due to an ankle injury but with the Hobart main draw not starting until January 8, the extra week could prove the sealer.

Tournament director Mark Handley told the Mercury yesterday he has spoken to Sharapova's management team about the possibility of her joining the 2012 field.

Australians Casey Dellacqua and rising star Ashleigh Barty have been handed two of the four Hobart wildcards, and Handley will now hold on to another for as long as possible while the lure of landing Sharapova remains.

Handley also revealed he is still in contact with Venus Williams, but is less optimistic about securing the American compared to Sharapova.



Williams has not played an official match since her first-round victory at the US Open after being diagnosed with
Sjogren's syndrome, and pulled out of the ASB Classic in Auckland, putting her Australian Open campaign in doubt.

Sharapova first hurt her left ankle at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo in September, and was forced to withdraw from the China Open and later the WTA Championships in Istanbul following two losses.

Although the 24-year-old traditionally does not play any Australian-based lead-up tournaments before the first Grand Slam of the season, a lack of decent match practice may see her play in Hobart.

The only other tournament available before the Open, which starts on January 16, is the Sydney International where Sharapova is the only top 10 player not participating.

``We are not expecting to hear anything until really late, there will be no early answer either way unfortunately,'' Handley said. ``Nominations for the qualifying draw are open until lunchtime on the fifth, so she has pretty much until then to make her mind up.

``At the moment though we are holding one [a wildcard] for her just in case.

``If we could get her it would be massive, a huge boost for the tournament.''

In total, 15 of the top 50 female players have entered the Hobart International, headlined by former world No.12 Yanina Wickmayer.
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