Australian Open 2020: Maria Sharapova receives wildcard entry as she attempts to improve her ranking
What's the story?
The organizers of the Australian Open 2020 have awarded a wildcard entry to former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova. The Russian suffered a morale-shattering first-round loss against Jennifer Brady last night at the Brisbane International, but this news will motivate her to resume her comeback efforts.
Ever since she made her comeback to professional tennis after serving a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova has been just a shadow of her former self. The 32-year-old's shoulder injuries troubled her a lot in 2019 as she could play only 15 matches in the year.
She enrolled her name for the Brisbane International tournament to start the new decade, but American qualifier Brady outlasted her in a terrific three-set match.
The heart of the matter
Confirming Sharapova's participation in the 2020 Australian Open, tournament director Craig Tiley revealed that the organizers awarded her the wildcard so that the former Australian Open winner can improve her ranking of 147.
After losing her match at the Brisbane International, Sharapova spoke to reporters where she mentioned that she had been battling a viral illness for a couple of weeks. She said:
"I've been fighting virus for a couple weeks and ended up in the hospital the other day, so that wasn't fun. I just couldn't keep anything in (but) that's the extent that I'm going to share with you."
Reflecting on her defeat to Brady, she added:
"I think I'm always disappointed because it's a result-oriented sport but I have to be proud of my effort. Yes there are a lot of improvements I need to make but I fought really hard. I think I did a lot better than I expected of my body."
It will be interesting to see how Sharapova performs in the first Grand Slam of this decade which begins on 20th January at Melbourne. She hasn't reached a Slam semifinal since 2016, and another early exit might well fuel speculation of retirement.