I Never Thought Of Quitting: Sharapova
Maria Sharapova insists she never considered quitting when a serious shoulder injury forced her out of the game, and warned on Saturday the hunger is back again.
The Russian pin-up won the Australian Open in 2008 but was deprived of defending it last year after failing to recover from surgery in time.
The injury kept her out of action until May and she has yet to rediscover the form that made her world number one.
But despite her interests outside the game, the 22-year-old said she never seriously thought about giving up tennis.
"There's so many ways out during that period of time," she said of her months on the sidelines.
"You know, there's so many wake up calls, excuses you could make to not want to be back out there.
"But there was never really that thought in my mind, that I didn't want it again. I always wanted to go out there, I wanted to get better, I wanted to compete.
"I worked hard to get back on the court. I think that's why I just have to be really grateful and fortunate for every match that I get to play for the rest of my career."
Sharapova has only played an exhibition in Hong Kong as a warm-up for the opening Grand Slam of the season, but said she was happy with her form and feeling good.
"Really well," she said, when asked about her preparations.
"I've had the last couple of months to look back at the year, really go out on the court and work on a few things that I felt like I needed to work on.
"I kept working on my shoulder, made sure that was strong and ready to go for the year."
With Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters returning to the scene after coming out of retirement, the Williams sisters still firing and a crop of younger players cracking the top 10, Sharapova said she was excited about the coming year.
"I honestly hope that this will be one of the most exciting years in women's tennis," she said.
"You have the story lines of the comebacks, you have the depth of the top 10. There's many possibilities.
"I hope that we can create great rivalries between each other and good matches. There's no better way to start than a Grand Slam."
Sharapova, seeded 14, opens her tournament against fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, someone she knows well.
"We grew up together playing junior tournaments," she said. "We know each other's games really well. We haven't played each other in a long time, but she's a great player." AFP