Brisbane’s the place for Sharapova

Hot and humid weather and a strong Brisbane International field are exactly the ingredients Maria Sharapova believes can kickstart her campaign for a sixth grand slam title.

The 28-year-old will compete in Queensland for the third straight summer and says the tournament is the ideal way to get her season going.

After falling to nemesis Serena Williams in the semis at Pat Rafter Arena two years ago, Sharapova stormed her way to the title in the absence of the American last summer.

That form carried over into the Australian Open, where Sharapova reached the final only to once again lose to Williams.

The world No.4 says the Brisbane event has quickly become one of her favourites.

Defending her crown won’t be easy, with world No.2 Simona Halep and world No.3 Garbine Muguruza in the women’s field for Brisbane along with two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.

“I started this event quite late in my career, but once I did I just felt it was the best preparation I could have going into the first grand slam of the year,” Sharapova said.

“It is the only one I play leading up to the Australian Open and you want to play the best in the world and this is the toughest event during this week.

“That’s why I’ve chosen it the last few years.”

Sharapova says she’s 100 per cent recovered from the injuries which forced her to miss three months at the back-end of the 2015 season, including the US Open.

It means the Russian hasn’t won a grand slam title in 18 months, a wait she’s understandably hoping will end in 2016.

The added lure of the Rio Olympics is also spurring Sharapova on, after claiming silver at the 2012 games in London.

“I had an incredible experience in London,” Sharapova said.

“It was very special to be an Olympian for the very first time. You play this individual sport and then you get to the Olympics and even though you’re doing the same thing, there’s just something extra about it – you’re part of a team; part of a family.

“I grew up with the Olympic culture spending my childhood in Russia. So I appreciate what it means to the country.”

Sharapova will discover just who she’ll begin her summer of tennis against on Friday when the draw for the 2016 Brisbane International is made at the Queensland Tennis Centre.

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