Maria Sharapova given Australian Open wildcard

Former champion Maria Sharapova 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.”

Sharapova’s season began with defeat by Jennifer Brady in the first round of the Brisbane International on Tuesday after she sought hospital treatment for a virus.

The 32-year-old will see her ranking drop further if she cannot match last year’s run to the fourth round of the Australian Open, 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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