Maria Sharapova’s injury woes force withdrawal from China Open title defence

Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the China Open with a left arm injury picked up in Wuhan this week

A little under a year ago, Maria Sharapova was putting together one of the best seasons of her long tennis career.

Her first title came on the clay of Stuttgart, and that launched her into ever-bigger titles in Madrid and the French Open. Her last title of the year came at one of the most important hard-court tournaments on the WTA tour, the China Open in Beijing.

Her run back to No2 in the world had been all the more impressive coming, as it did, after an injury-blighted 2013 in which she played just one match after a second-round loss at Wimbledon and was forced to withdraw from every tournament except Cincinnati first with a hip injury and then a shoulder injury.

But this year is turning into something of a replay of 2013 with the latest announcement that Sharapova has been withdrawn from the China Open with a left arm injury picked up during her brief return to the tour in Wuhan this week.

Again, the year started brightly with the Brisbane title followed by a final run at the Australian Open. She reclaimed the Rome title—her third in the Eternal City—and reached the semis at Wimbledon. But after her loss to Serena Williams in London in early July, she missed the entire US Open Series with a leg injury sustained during training after Wimbledon. She made the journey to Flushing Meadows but announced her withdrawal the day before the US Open got under way.

A bitter disappointment, then, that in her first match since London, as the No2 seed at the Wuhan Open this week, she retired part way into the third set with a left arm problem.

She described it thus: “I got pain in my left forearm. It just got worse and worse as I continued. I just don’t think it’s smart to continue trying to run around the court and trying to hit forehands from the backhand side and compensate other things.

“I haven’t played a match in many months. I guess this is the consequence of that. I just have to work on getting it better.”

Sharapova was quick to dismiss thoughts of a premature end to her season, however: “I’ve had my fair share of serious injuries, and I know this is far from it, something I just have to take care of.

“I mean obviously [the WTA Finals in] Singapore and Fed Cup are a big priority for myself. I’ll do everything in order to be healthy for that.

“I don’t know how long it will take for this to recover so I can’t really give a definite answer about next week.”

So perhaps it came as no surprise that, with an eye on the long game and two such big challenges on the horizon, the defending champion has indeed withdrawn from next week’s China Open.

Sharapova has played few ties in Fed Cup, just four thus far, and while she was a member of the winning Russian squad in 2008, she has never played in one her nation’s many finals of the last decade. Injury also forced her out of the semis this April, but she has committed to the final against the powerful Czech Republic team in Prague in November.

It is also more than a decade since Sharapova won her only WTA Championship title, in 2004, and that also marked the last time she beat Williams, in the final.

So important targets for the end of Sharapova’s season, targets that will demand 100 percent fitness against the very best that women’s tennis has to offer.

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