Indian Wells blow for Maria Sharapova


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Former world number one Maria Sharapova has been forced to withdraw from next month’s Indian Wells tournament due to a shoulder injury.

Tournament organisers confirmed the Russian had pulled out of the event on Wednesday in a further setback to Sharapova’s hopes of returning to the top level.

Germany’s Mona Barthel will take Sharapova’s place in the main draw at Indian Wells.

The five-time Grand Slam champion withdrew from the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy with the same injury at the end of last month ahead of her second-round clash with Daria Kasatkina.

Sharapova has competed in just three tournaments since last summer’s US Open and had to retire in two of those events, but did reach the fourth round of the Australian Open earlier this year.

The 31-year-old managed to overcome defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in Melbourne, where she revealed her shoulder was still an issue.

Sharapova has stressed she feels she can still add to her five major titles although missing Indian Wells will be a huge blow in her bid to climb back up the rankings.

Sharapova is currently the world number 27 but will drop down the rankings by missing Indian Wells and could be unseeded for the French Open, the next Grand Slam tournament.

Holder Simona Halep is the current 5.00 favourite ahead of the French Open while Serena Williams can be backed at 8.00. World number one Naomi Osaka is 9.50 as she seeks a third successive Grand Slam title.

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