She may not have played since August, but Maria Sharapova has arrived in Brisbane ready to start her 2014 season.
The former No.1 has already had a practice session under the Pat Rafter Arena roof and today she took time out from her busy schedule to see what it’s like to be a ballkid. Much to the delight of the Suncorp Ballkids, Sharapova joined in a practice session with them before showing off her ballkid skills.
But it will be skills of a different kind that the world No.4 will be putting on display when the main draw gets underway from Sunday 29 December.
“I feel like I’ve had a really good off season, I started way ahead of schedule – I started practice when the last tournament was on for the girls – it’s just really fun for me to be back on court because I’ve really missed it,” said Sharapova.
A shoulder injury soured the Russian’s 2013 season, but she says that problem is now behind her.
“I gave it enough time to recover and get better, that was extremely important for me that’s why I had to miss a big chunk of the end of the season but in order to come here feeling strong I had to do that.”
Time will tell whether her shoulder, which has troubled her in the past has fully recovered but there is little doubt that she is giving herself every opportunity to make it back to the top spot.
In November she announced Sven Groneveld as her new coach, following a short-lived union with Jimmy Connors that came after two and a half years with Thomas Hogstedt.
Groneveld has worked with a long list of stars, including the likes of Monica Seles, Mary Pierce, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki.
“I think new people give a new perspective on things,” said Sharapova. “When you’re at a certain level in your career there’s only a few percentages that can change a lot of things and we’ve had a lot of fun in the last couple of months – we’ve done great work and this is going to be a long year but I’m looking forward to it.”
Sharapova hopes that the change in mentor will lead to her winning her first Grand Slam title since she triumphed at Roland Garros in 2012.
“I think there’s a lot more to do in the Grand Slams, but events like these are quite important because they are the lead up to the big ones that you want to capture.
“I love this game and I’ve achieved a lot but I feel that I have a lot left in me and that’s why I get up and go practice.”