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Sharapova Awarded Australian Open Wild Card

Her surgically-repaired serving shoulder is still cranky and a virus recently sent her to the hospital.

Coming off an injury-ravaged 2019, Maria Sharapova concedes she's damaged, but remains determined to produce positive results in 2020.

Sharapova received good news today: the Australian Open has awarded the five-time Grand Slam champion a main-draw wild card.

More: New Coach-Player Pairings for 2020

"To be in the draw of the Australian Open is incredible," Sharapova said in a statement. "I've had wonderful experiences there, from holding the championship trophy to losing some very tough finals as well. There's been a lot of ups and downs in Australia.

"So to have another chance, another opportunity, to compete on all those courts is very special."

The Australian Open starts on January 20th.

The former world No. 1, whose ranking has dropped to No. 147 after playing just 15 matches last season, reached the Melbourne fourth round last year losing to Ashleigh Barty.  

Sharapova, who committed 11 double faults falling to American qualifier Jennifer Brady 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3) in her Brisbane opener yesterday, says her right shoulder will likely never be fully fit and admits she's unsure if it will jeopardize this season.

"Honestly, I don't know. There were times in the year where I was optimistic and it didn't [work]," Sharapova told the media in Brisbane. "My optimism didn't follow up with how I really thought I would prevail and where I would feel. I didn't expect to play so little amount in 2019. So for me to say that I'm optimistic, I think it would be challenging, but I'm doing all the right work and I've done everything I could.

"I get asked about my shoulder, I think, in every interview that I do and the bottom line is I have a damaged shoulder that I've had and operated on, so it's not something that I'm going to wake up and be, like, I feel perfect. But a lot of it is managing the pain and doing all the right things and taking care of the rest of the body so that it helps the shoulder."

"There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, that it's not just about the shoulder, it's also making sure everything else," Sharapova said. "I spent a lot of time in the off-season working on my strength and my body, and more than I've ever done in my career, to help that joint."

The 32-year-old Russian, who split with Thomas Hogstedt last year, has been working with respected Italian coach Riccardo Piatti since last summer. 

The 2008 Australian Open champion said Piatti has worked to help her streamline her service motion in an effort to alleviate shoulder pain.

"When I came to him in July I went to see him to help me with my serve and help maybe look for a motion that will help my shoulder and maybe alleviate the pain a little bit, and that was like my first goal of going to see him, because he is very technical and he works with video analysis a lot," Sharapova said. "So we really were like working on to see where my position of the shoulder is and where the pain was coming from, and all that.

"So he's done a really good thorough job of helping me with that and he has a good system in place for that. Yeah, and the people that, you know, he has alongside himself are really good quality people and I love the work that I do with them."

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve