Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep withdraw in Brisbane

Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep Brisbane International

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Defending champion Maria Sharapova and top seed Simona Halep have both withdrawn from the Brisbane International due to respective injuries.

World number four Sharapova endured an injury-ravaged end to the 2015 season, but she insists her decision to pull out of the event at the Queensland Tennis Centre was merely a precaution ahead of the Australian Open later this month.

Sharapova said: “I hurt my forearm in practice a couple of days ago. This is such a special event for me, especially being the defending champion. I’m looking forward to seeing all my fans in Brisbane next year.”

The 28-year-old, who beat Ana Ivanovic in the final of the event 12 months ago, had been due to take on fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the first round in Brisbane, but will instead focus on getting ready for the first Grand Slam of 2016.

World number two Halep will also miss the event in Brisbane due to an ankle injury, but could return to action at next week’s Apia International in Sydney.

The Romanian had been due to take on Victoria Azarenka in the second round in Brisbane, but conceded that she is not yet ready to return.

Halep said: “I thought that I was ready to play – I came here like I wanted to play, to start the year here, but I cannot have a full match, and I thought that it’s more important to be ready and to take a break.”

Both players will be desperate to be fit for the first major tournament of the year that is due to get under way in Melbourne on January 18.

Sharapova is available at 7.50 to claim her second Australian Open title while Halep is on offer at 8.50 to secure her first Grand Slam success.

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