Sharapova opts out of HK Classic
Top drawcard Maria Sharapova has pulled out of January's Hong Kong Tennis Classic as she goes in search of match competition in a bid to revive her flagging world ranking.
Organisers of the World Team Challenge event said the hugely popular Russian star (pictured) had decided to skip Hong Kong, which has been a regular stopover for her in past years, as she wants to play in a ranking tournament.
'Maria feels she needs to play in a WTA ranking tournament at the start of the year, and she is going to break her routine of starting in Hong Kong,' Ian Wade, president of the Hong Kong Tennis Patrons Association, said.
'We are naturally disappointed but we know how hard a decision this was for her. With a current ranking of 18, Maria is working hard to get back in the top five.'
Sharapova, winner of Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008, was announced as one of the main drawcards by Hong Kong organisers last month. She will be replaced by world No 3 Vera Zvonareva, who will now captain Team Russia in the January 5-8 tournament at Victoria Park.
The other leading players appearing include new world No1 Caroline Wozniacki and world No4 Venus Williams.
Wade said: 'Vera Zvonareva has enjoyed a stunning season. This year she has reached two grand slam finals - Wimbledon and the US Open - and she is fulfilling her potential as one of the world's best.'