12 Jan 2009

Sharapova withdraws from Australian Open

5:56 am on 12 January 2009

The reigning Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from this year's event because of a slower than expected recovery from a shoulder injury.

The Russian says she was making steady progress but was not fit enough to compete at the tournament, which starts on January the 19th.

The world number nine says she just started training a few weeks ago and she's not near the level she needs to be to compete at the highest levels.

Sharapova won her first Australian Open title last year when she beat Serbia's Ana Ivanovic in the final at Melbourne Park, but has not played since August.

Sharapova has promised to return next year.