Australian Open defends Maria Sharapova invitation to draw ceremony

Maria Sharapova attended the draw in Serena Williams' absence

Maria Sharapova attended the draw in Serena Williams' absence Credit reuters

With reigning champion Serena Williams missing the tournament, organisers chose Sharapova to represent the women.

"As part of the tradition, we have the former champions", he said.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said they wanted to have a former champion at the draw and it's the 10-year anniversary of her winning in Melbourne.

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

Maria Sharapova's Australian Open return could barely have been better timed. "We were happy she accepted our invite".

When asked if Sharapova's inclusion and the grand way in which she was unveiled had been appropriate, Tiley added: "In fairness to Maria, the adjudication has occurred on that. Maria deserved the opportunity".

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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 is Russia's most decorated tennis player having won a total of five Grand Slam tournaments, namely the Australian Open in 2008, the French Open in 2012 and 2014, Wimbledon in 2004 and the US Open in 2006.

"That is the ultimate goal, but I realise the depth of the game", the 30-year-old said.

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

Sharapova's unseeded this year and has drawn Germany's Tatjana Maria in the first round. I have to back off sometimes and say this will take time. "It was the highlight of previous year, beating Wimbledon and all the other tournaments I played".

After American Donald Young in round one, he could face in-form Frenchman Gael Monfils in round two and fourth seed Alexander Zverev in round four, provided the young German gets past brother Mischa.

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