Healthy Sharapova ready to shine under California sun!!!!
INDIAN WELLS, California (AFP) - Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova puts her pefect 2008 record on the line in the Pacific Life Open men's and women's hardcourt tennis tournament that started here Wednesday.
Sharapova, seeded fourth in a women's field led by top-seeded Serbian Ana Ivanovic, followed up her Australian Open triumph with a victory in Doha before withdrawing from the tournament in Dubai because of a nagging virus.
She said her success this season, in which her 14-0 record includes two FedCup victories, has shown she has the grit it takes to come back after a 2007 season in which she battled a shoulder injury.
"I was playing with painkillers, and even if it didn't hurt, you knew in the back of your mind that you had to do something about it," said the 20-year-old Russian, who is currently ranked fifth in the world.
"But I have gained a lot of confidence now, knowing that I was able to come back. I came back stronger and really feel good about myself.
"I know I can do it no matter what happens," added Sharapova, owner of three Grand Slam titles.
Like all of the seeded players in both the men's and women's draws of this 5.7 million-dollar tournament, Sharapova has a first-round bye.
In the second round Sharapova will face French qualifier Stephanie Cohen-Aloro, who defeated American Lilia Osterloh 6-1, 6-2 as first round action began on Wednesday.
Ivanovic, whose runner-up finish to Sharapova in the Australian Open propelled her to number two in the world behind Belgian Justine Henin - who isn't entered this week, is the top women's seed in a tier-one event for just the second time in her career.
The first was in Doha in February, when she won her first match but pulled out of her next with an ankle injury.
Ivanovic, who then fell in the quarter-finals of Dubai, was adjusting to the conditions in California as she waited to launch her campaign.
"The balls are flying a lot and it's difficult to find a rhythm," she said. "The courts are also playing slow. I'll be working on my timing."
Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, the women's second seed, will face compatriot Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. Makarova defeated American Meilen Tu 6-4, 6-2 in the first round on Wednesday.
Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, the third seed, arrived stateside in search of a new coach to help her build on her success of last season, when she won four of her five career titles.
"I'm working hard to find a new coach," she said. "I've got a lot of options. No one has turned me down."
She said she would be working during this tournament with trainer Pat Etcheberry on her fitness, but also wants someone who can help her improve her game.
"I want to go to the next level. I want someone who knows more about tennis than I do."
Men's action begins on Thursday as the ATP's lesser lights jockey for position in the first round.
Waiting in the wings will be world number one Roger Federer and the rest of the seeded players.
Second-seeded Rafael Nadal will be hoping to retain the title he won here last year - the first of his six titles of 2007.
Federer is the top seed here for the fifth straight year.
However, he was shocked here last year by Argentina's Guillermo Canas in the second round.
The three-time Indian Wells titlist will also be trying to bounce back from a first-round upset by Andy Murray in Dubai last week, as well as a semi-final ouster at the Australian Open by eventual champion Novak Djokovic, who is seeded third here.