• Australian Open

Sharapova: I may be rusty at Australian Open

ESPN staff
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Competition fierce in women's Australian Open draw

Maria Sharapova has confessed her Australian Open preparations have been far from ideal, but remains confident she has the necessary experience to cope over the next two weeks.

Sharapova, who is the reigning Roland Garros champion and a 2008 winner of the Australian Open, was robbed of crucial match practice when a collarbone injury ruled her out of the Brisbane International.

As a result, she will be playing catch-up when the year's first grand slam commences on Monday, but the world No. 2 is not concerned. Last year she was also forced to miss the Brisbane event, yet still reached the Australian Open final.

"I would have loved to come into it with a few matches but sometimes circumstances don't allow it and that is okay," Sharapova said.

"I would rather be going on to the court knowing that I am healthy and, yes, I might be a bit rusty but I am experienced enough to know the adjustments I need to make in those kind of circumstances."

Sharapova was beaten by Victoria Azarenka in last year's final, and Azarenka insists she is in the mood to attack when she returns to Melbourne. The world No. 1 clearly feels she is the standard-bearer to whom others aspire.

"I am not here to defend, I am here to win and to play tennis," Azarenka said. "That is how I look at it and it is my mentality going in to the start of the tournament.

"It (winning the Australian Open) gave me a lot of self-belief. I always was a really good player, but it gave me that mental edge to make the difference and brought a lot of inner confidence and that feeling that what I had was incredible. Since then I want to feel it again and it is what motivates me even more every day."

Serena Williams, the bookmakers' favourite after she won the Brisbane International, is also in confident mood, saying: "I feel really calm and relaxed and I feel really good - not panicking or doing anything over-the-top. For me that is the key.

"I don't think about whether it (her current form) is going to stop or if I'm going to do this or that. I just live in the moment and go with that."

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