MARIA Sharapova flew in for her first Brisbane International last year with a doubt over her recovery from a shoulder problem and a new coach in tow.
Top seed for the Brisbane International, starting on Sunday, Sharapova said she was not driven by a mission to return to the No.1 ranking she held most recently for four weeks in mid-2012.
Improving and maintaining her standard of play in 2015 and adding to her five career major titles are priorities, although either may help her unseat Serena Williams from the top of the rankings.
“I just want to focus on matches and competing well and being the best played I can be and the best player out there,’’ Sharapova said.
“It’s the first tournament of the year and it’s nice to come back to Brisbane. It’s a great entry list and why so many of us like starting the year off in Brisbane.’’
The Russian hit the court for an afternoon session practice at Pat Rafter Arena under the eye of Groenefeld, who was hired in November 2013.
Should Sharapova, who is the highest ranked of four top-10 women at the Brisbane International, win and take the 470 rankings points, she will trail Williams by 680 points.
Also arriving from Europe yesterday were Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova and Germany’s world No.9 Angelique Kerber.
Tenth-ranked Cibulkova, from Slovakia, upset Sharapova in the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
Kerber returns to an arena at which she has made the quarter-finals the past two years as well as helping Germany to a Fed Cup semi-final win over Australia last April.