Sharapova to start rebuild at Brisbane International

FORMER world No.1 tennis player Maria Sharapova says she's excited to be back in Brisbane after becoming the final wildcard in next week's star-studded tournament.

The 32-year-old is looking to return to career-best form after struggling with a shoulder injury since a doping ban in 2016.

The Russian last played in Brisbane in 2015, when she won the title, and said she couldn't wait to get onto the court next week.

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"I'm very excited (to be here in Brisbane)," said Sharapova, one of only 10 women to complete a career singles grand slam.

"It's good to be here, as always."

Injuries have sidelined Sharapova for much of 2019, in which she played in just eight tournaments.

Her world tennis ranking has slipped to 131, but Sharapova is determined to improve on that, beginning with the Brisbane International which kicks off on Monday.

Comeback trail: Maria Sharapova reacts after beating Ajla Tomljanovic from Australia in Abu Dhabi just before Christmas.
Comeback trail: Maria Sharapova reacts after beating Ajla Tomljanovic from Australia in Abu Dhabi just before Christmas.

The 32-year-old right-hander last played the tournament in 2015, when she won the title, beating Ana Ivanovic 6-7 6-3 6-3 in the final.

Sharapova was due to defend the championship the following year, but was a late withdrawal with a left forearm injury.

A few weeks later Sharapova failed a drug test at the Australian Open, testing positive to meldonium.

Initially banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation, Sharapova's ban was reduced to 15 months, and she returned to action in April 2017.

Injuries sidelined Sharapova for much of the 2019 season, in which she played only eight tournaments.

As a result, she has slipped to 131 in the world rankings.

However, Sharapova is determined to again be part of the game's elite.

The Brisbane International looms as the ideal preparation for Sharapova in her bid to add a second Australian Open crown to the title she won in 2008.

The field already includes world No.1 Ash Barty, defending champion and world No.2 Karolina Pliskova, as well as reigning Australian Open champion and world No.3 Naomi Osaka.

Other drawcards include world No.6 Elina Svitolina, world No.17 Angelique Kerber, and seven-time grand slam singles titles winner Venus Williams, who was also given a wildcard.