Brisbane, Australia • After pulling out of the Brisbane International with injuries in recent seasons, Maria Sharapova is aiming to use the season-opening tournament this time as a springboard for her comeback and to see how her new support crew works in competition.
Sharapova has played only one match since an early exit at Wimbledon due to a right shoulder injury and has spent months working with her new coach Sven Groeneveld. She arrived in Australia to prepare for the first major of the season with her boyfriend and fellow professional Grigor Dimitrov, who returns after losing the final here to Andy Murray last season.
Serena Williams won the last Brisbane title and is back to defend it, hoping she hasn't lost any of the momentum from a stunning 2013 season when she won 11 titles including the French and U.S. Opens, had 78 wins from 82 matches including a 34-match winning streak and collected more than $12 million in prize money.
Her brief offseason was not exactly business as usual although it was commercial. She trained in Florida with her father, Richard, so she could be close to home for the relaunch of one of her companies and to hire a CEO for it.
No. 3-seeded Sharapova is in Williams' half of the draw, meaning they could meet in the semifinals. The Brisbane tournament will be Sharapova's only warm-up for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 13, so she needs to find her rhythm quickly.
Sharapova split with coach Thomas Hogstedt after her Wimbledon loss, and said she wasn't in the right frame of mind to work with Jimmy Connors long term that partnership lasted one match.
"From the first time we met I really liked what [Groeneveld] had to say," Sharapova said. "He's a team player. He works with everyone on my team, something I was missing for a little bit of time."
Sharapova was scheduled to face Caroline Garcia of France in her first-round match on Monday. Williams gets a first-round bye.
Former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki withdrew after hurting her right shoulder in practice.