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Defending champion Sharapova withdraws from Australian Open

Defending champion Sharapova withdraws from Australian Open SYDNEY: Maria Sharapova will not defend her title at the Australian Open next week after withdrawing from the year's opening grand slam tournament, officials said Sunday.

The Russian world number nine advised tournament officials that she was not confident of her fitness levels after a shoulder surgery late last year. The 21-year-old was hindered by a right shoulder injury much of last season and skipped the Beijing Olympics and the US Open before having arthroscopic surgery in October. "I am very sorry to announce that I am not going to be able to defend my title at this year's Australian Open," Sharapova said in a Tennis Australia statement. "My shoulder is doing great, but I just started training a few weeks ago and I am just not near the level I need to be to compete at the highest levels." Sharapova did not drop a set on the way to winning her third grand slam in Australia last January. She went on to win her first 18 matches of the season and reclaimed her world number one ranking in May. But the shoulder injury hampered her progress in the second half of the year and the last match she played for the year was in Montreal in August.

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