-i can't believe she only found out until now-
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Now that Maria Sharapova knows what is wrong with her sore right shoulder, she's confident she can play through the pain at next week's Australian Open.
Sharapova, who won her first Grand Slam title at age 17 in 2004 and rose to No. 1 in the rankings for two short periods last year, traveled to Melbourne unsure if she'd be fit enough to play in the season's first major.
After months of pain, the Russian star said doctors had identified that her problem stemmed from a dislocated rib, not a pectoral muscle problem.
"It's not 100 percent. I wouldn't say it's at the top level. But at least I know the cause of the problem," Sharapova said Thursday. "The good thing is, the doctors have told me it can't get any worse.
"As long as I know I can't hurt it any more, I'm going to have to suck it up and do the best I can."
Sharapova became the darling of the WTA Tour after her breakthrough win at Wimbledon, as much for her model looks as for her tennis.
The Florida-based Sharapova, speaking at a pink-themed sponsor's event at a swanky downtown hotel, said she's determined to be more than a one Grand Slam wonder.
Sharapova was the only woman to make the semifinals at three of the four majors last season and went down to the eventual champion at all four Grand Slam events.
She wants to go one better at least once in 2006.
Provided second-ranked Kim Clijsters overcomes a hip problem she sustained in Sydney on Wednesday, all of the top 10 women and defending champion Serena Williams will be in the draw at Melbourne Park for the first time in many years.
Asked who the favorite should be, Sharapova said she didn't want to give her rivals a boost by nominating anyone.
"If you want my confidence to be up, I have to say myself," she said.
She'll be coming off a low-key buildup, playing only five events in the latter part of last season.
"I think I need a few matches to prepare," she said. "I'm not going to be playing my best in the first round, but I'm sure gradually as I go, I'm sure my form will come back to normal."
Sharapova lost to Serena Williams in the Australian Open semifinals last year despite serving for the match in the second and third sets.