Wildcard Sharapova seeking epic Open run
Maria Sharapova will use memories of her rampaging 2008 Melbourne Park title triumph as inspiration as the Russian attempts to capitalise on an Australian Open singles wildcard.
It is 12 years since former world No. 1 Sharapova contrived one of the most emphatic bursts of sustained excellence at Melbourne Park, where she is also a triple runner-up.
Now ranked 147th in the world, Sharapova was spared the rigours of qualifying this week as Tennis Australia acknowledged her 57-12 record at the Open.
Beaten in the first round at the Brisbane International, Sharapova craves another deep run to match the now distant 2008 season when she lifted the title without dropping a set.
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"The championships' moment is always one you can look back to and reflect on," the five-time major winner said.
"I think that's always very memorable.
"I do remember before the 2008 tournament, the draw came out and I felt pretty good going into the season.
"I felt healthy, felt ready, just come off a pretty solid year in the rankings and results-wise.
"Then I got the draw and I drew Lindsay Davenport in the second round.
"I was like 'I think I'm ready, I hope I'm ready' and with every match you feel like the strength inside you to keep going.
"It (the Davenport match) was one of the best matches that I played in the tournament.
"I still believe until this day, it was one of the toughest draws I've had in a grand slam and I prevailed.
"So no matter how the draws are until today, I always look back to that memory and how I came through and have some really great results."
Victory over Davenport was followed by wins against reigning world No. 1 Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.
Sharapova, 32, has shed the virus which laid her low in Queensland and she now covets an uncomplicated run at one of her favourite events.
"I've been here many, many years and it has been an incredible journey being here, experiencing the highs and lows, being the champion in 2008, having some of the best matches of my career," she said.
"From an outside perspective, seeing the growth of this event has probably been the most impressive of any tournament that I've been a part of - and I've been a part of many.
"From the fans perspective, from an individual player's perspective, the facilities that you're bringing year in, year out to us, making our lives so much easier so that we can go out on the court and perform the very best that we can.
"From a fan's perspective, I think you hear it all the time when you think of the best tournament in the world, you think of coming to the Australian Open and just having an amazing time.
"This is another year in my journey and I'm grateful to Craig (Tiley) and Tennis Australia to be in the main draw.
"I look forward to nine days that we begin the tournament."