Dec 29 Having pulled out of the Brisbane International tournament through injury for the last two years, Maria Sharapova might consider it a victory in itself if she actually gets out on court at the Pat Rafter arena on Monday.
The tournament is perhaps more important to the Russian world number four as a warm-up for the Australian Open this year as she is on the comeback trail after four months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.
At least she made it to Brisbane this year, something which an ankle injury prevented her from doing in 2012, but she was giving no guarantees that she would be quickly back to the form that has won her four grand slam titles.
"I want to bring the work I've done in the off-season, try to bring that onto the court as soon as I can. Will that happen this week? I don't know," she told reporters on Sunday.
"I know that if I have the effort I had in the off-season I'll be at a level I want to be."
Sharapova plays France's Caroline Garcia in the first round on Monday evening, her first match since the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati in August and her first under new coach Sven Groeneveld.
The 26-year-old recruited Groeneveld in November, ending a period without a coach after she dispensed with Thomas Hogstedt, who had been working with her for two-and-a-half years, and Jimmy Connors, who lasted a month, in quick succession.
"From the first time we met I really liked what he had to say," she said.
"I like when someone comes in and is honest and truthful and says it like it is. He's that. He puts it all out on the table. He's a team player. He works with everyone on my team, something I was missing for a little bit of time."
Sharapova is also accompanied in Brisbane by boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov, who was runner up to Andy Murray at last year's tournament.
After humourously dismissing the idea that she might be a mentor to the 22-year-old Bulgarian, Sharapova did open up a little on their relationship.
"Of course we share a lot of the same things just because we have an elephant in the room that's called tennis," she said.
"But there are so many other things to life that are besides tennis, and there are a lot more things to discuss than forehands and backhands and strings and racquets, which we share similar ideas and things of. That's been really nice." (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)
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