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Sharapova deserved special honour: Oz Open boss

13 January 2018

Sharapova is ranked 47th in the world and comes to Melbourne Park without the protection of a seeding for the first time since debuting in 2003, a year before she stunned Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final. We needed a former champion to come. But Tiley cited Sharapova's status as a former champion for the invite, with the Russian having lifted the trophy ten years ago.

With Kerber still competing at a tournament in Sydney, Tiley was happy to call on Sharapova.

Unseeded Sharapova and Germany's Angelique Kerber (seeded 21) are the only two players at this year's Australian Open, who won the tournament on previously.

She [Maria] accepted the invite.' He also added, 'In fairness to Maria, the adjudication has occurred on that [her doping violation]. "She deserved the opportunity".

World's No. 1 and top-seed Simona Halep will open her battle for the 2018 Australian Open trophy with a match against 17-year-old Destanee Aiava of Australia, who is now ranked 193rd in the WTA rankings.

Sharapova has already made an impact here, if not quite the one she and the tournament organisers would have wanted, when she took Williams's prestigious place on the podium for Thursday night's televised draw.

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"That is the ultimate goal, but I realise the depth of the game", the 30-year-old said. "It's for anyone to grab".

"I certainly hope I can put myself in that position. because I've been there and have delivered on those moments".

Top seed Simona Halep will face a local wildcard in the first round, while men's world number one Rafael Nadal will start his bid for a second title in Melbourne against Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos.

"It was a huge surprise".

Six-time champion Novak Djokovic is only seeded 14th after his lengthy absence with elbow problems and was handed a tricky draw.

Sharapova deserved special honour: Oz Open boss