It feels like a second-hand event – Sharapova criticises Brisbane International

Maria Sharapova claimed the Brisbane International feels like “a second-hand event” after the women’s tournament was shunted off the main court by the ATP Cup.

Traditionally, men and women would have shared top billing but the introduction this year of the ATP Cup means no women’s matches have so far been played on Pat Rafter Arena.

That will change on Thursday, when action at the ATP Cup switches entirely to Sydney, but the scheduling has come in for criticism.

The women’s tournament is traditionally very strong, and this year’s field includes home favourite and world number one Ashleigh Barty and defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka.

After losing her first-round match to Jennifer Brady, Sharapova told reporters in Brisbane: “You definitely recognise it and notice it, it feels like a little bit of a second-hand event.

“I think on Thursday the girls go back on centre court. But it’s definitely a bit of a strange strategic move. I think there’s a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre court spot in this draw.”

Tournament director Mark Handley said in a statement that talks are ongoing with the WTA over a “new concept”.

There was good news for Sharapova on Wednesday with confirmation she has been given a wild card for the Australian Open.

A combination of ongoing shoulder issues and poor form has seen the Russian drop to 147th in the rankings, well outside the cut-off for automatic entry into the year’s first grand slam.

Sharapova, the 2008 winner, said on ausopen.com: “To be in the draw of the Australian Open is incredible.

“I’ve had wonderful experiences there, from holding the championship trophy to losing some very tough finals as well. There’s been a lot of ups and downs in Australia.

“So to have another chance to compete on all those courts is very special.”

The 32-year-old will see her ranking drop further if she cannot match last year’s run to the fourth round in Melbourne, which included victory over defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.

Meanwhile, tournament organisers have announced Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Nick Kyrgios will be among the stars taking part in next Wednesday’s exhibition to raise money for the bushfire relief effort.

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