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Sharapova hopeful for Aussie Open

Maria Sharapova
Sharapova missed the Olympics and the US Open because of injury

Maria Sharapova is "hopeful" of being fit to defend her Australian Open title despite withdrawing from an exhibition event in Hong Kong next week.

Sharapova, 21, pulled out of the JB Group Classic as she continues to recover from right shoulder surgery.

The world number nine said on her website she was "not ready to play top-class competition in Hong Kong".

The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season, starts in Melbourne on 19 January.

Sharapova, who missed the Beijing Olympics and the US Open because of her shoulder injury, added: "It's with much disappointment that I have to withdraw from Hong Kong.

It's been a very difficult decision, but I only started practising 16 days ago

Maria Sharapova

"I've been using this event for the last five years to get match fit and ready for the new season. In fact, Hong Kong has been successful in preparing me for the Australian Open.

"Believe me, it's been a very difficult decision, but I only started practising 16 days ago."

The JB Group Classic, which will feature world number one Jelena Jankovic and Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, has a new format this year, featuring four teams - Europe, Russia, Team Americas and Asia Pacific.

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