Maria Sharapova: Will Sidelined Star Be Ready for Australian Open?

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIINovember 21, 2016

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01:  Maria Sharapova of Russia announces her withdrawal from the tournament on day three of the Brisbane International at Pat Rafter Arena on January 1, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Despite withdrawing from the Brisbane International, Maria Sharapova should be all set to play at the Australian Open which starts January 14.

A collarbone injury forced Sharapova to withdraw from the Brisbane International for the second straight season, but she is optimistic about playing in the Australian Open, according to John Pye of The Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports):

“I still have quite a bit of time to prepare for Australia. I’m on the right track, been training really well, so I just don’t want to jeopardize what I’ve gained in the offseason so far,” the No. 2-ranked Sharapova said. “Just have to make a smart move here.”

If Sharapova is healthy enough to play in the Aussie Open, there’s no reason to doubt that she won’t be successful.

Last year when she withdrew from the Brisbane International and went into the Australian Open cold, she was great. She cruised through the first six opponents of the tournament before falling to Victoria Azarenka in the final. She only lost four sets her entire ride—two of them obviously coming against the Open champion, Azarenka.

It’s important to recognize that Sharapova’s withdrawal was done more as a precaution than anything else. There’s a chance that she could have participated in the Brisbane International, but there’s no reason to risk missing the Australian Open where a victory would mean much more. She would rather not take her chances.

It’s kind of the way that I’ve always built my career around the fact that it’s very important for me to go into something like the Australian Open believing and knowing that I’m healthy and confident. I don’t exactly need to play five tournaments in order to feel that way.

Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times writes that since none of the top 32 women have withdrawn, the seedings will be identical to the rankings, meaning that Sharapova will be the No. 2 seed.

With such a high seed, Sharapova will be considered one of the favorites to win the Australian Open, which she has only won once in her career (2008). As long as her collarbone doesn’t restrict her, she should be able to compete with the other top candidates such as No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and No. 3 Serena Williams.

What Sharapova has to hope for is that Azarenka and Williams are placed in the same half, which would mean that only one of them could make the final. That would drastically increase her chances of winning whether her collarbone is fine or not.

The rest that Sharapova has been able to give her collarbone will make it a non-factor once she takes the court.