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By Britwatch Tennis

  • Defending champion Maria Sharapova withdrew before her scheduled first round match against Ekaterina Makarova
  • Continuing injury woes for Australian Open finalist as she tries to be fit for Melbourne
  • Swiftly followed by World No, 2 Simona Halep with a left leg injury

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Defending champion and third seed Maria Sharapova and World No. 2 and top seed Simona Halep withdrew from the tournament with injuries.

In a rainy Brisbane with weather more akin to a British summer, the mood matched the grey of the clouds as the announcement came in a little more than an hour before the defending champion was due to take to the courts for the first time in the tournament.

Citing a left forearm injury picked up a couple of days previously in training, Sharapova said in a statement: “I hurt my forearm in practice a couple days ago and need to precautionarily (sic) withdraw with the Australian Open starting in just a matter of time.

“This is such a special event for me, especially being the defending champion. I’m looking forward to seeing all my fans in Brisbane next year.”

It is a big blow for the tournament, boasting perhaps the best field of all the season openers, with the combined event drawing in big names.

Maria Sharapova in action at the 2016 Brisbane International

Credit: Jimmy48 Tennis Photography

It is frustrating for the Russian who struggled with injuries throughout last year, with a leg injury preventing her from competing in the Fed Cup semi-final and an early exit at Stuttgart where she was the three-time defending champion, and was followed throughout 2015 with a right forearm injury in Wuhan (retiring in her opener) and Beijing, and plagued with a leg injury that kept her out of Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open.

Maybe even a bigger disappointment after such a blinding start on Monday was the fact that Victoria Azarenka would not be shaping up for an encounter with top seed Halep as she withdrew from Wednesday’s scheduled clash with a left leg injury

Talking with reporters after announcing withdrawal, Halep said: “I had problems with my Achilles in August/September, and then I didn’t feel anymore. But now I have couple of weeks already again with the pain. I thought that I’m ready to play. I came here, you know, like I want to play, to start the year here, but I cannot have a full match, and I thought that it’s more important to be ready and to take a break a little bit.

“I really want to have matches before Melbourne because I have already two months without official match. But I cannot say anything now. My plan is just to play in Sydney. But we will see. It’s difficult to say now how I will feel.”

Halep will head to Sydney where she will be the top seed.










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