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Sharapova glad to put 2007 behind her

sports Updated: Jan 14, 2008 22:37 IST
Greg Stutchbury
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Famed for her on-court grunts, Maria Sharapova admitted she let out a loud yelp of unadulterated joy on New Year's Eve.

"I was in Hong Kong and I was celebrating New Year and yelling 'yes, the year is over'," the Russian told Reuters ahead of the Australian Open.

"And I was very excited about it," she added with a grin.

The world number five said she felt she had had a terrible 2007, dogged by a constant shoulder injury which had effected her performances on court.

"It wasn't a very positive year... I felt like I was injured for 80 percent of it.

"I had so many setbacks and, as an athlete, you have your little goals to what you're working towards and every time you have four to five days of good training and then you have a setback of a week, you start to ask yourself questions about where you're going.

"It was definitely frustrating."

The 20-year-old made the Australian Open final, regained the world number one ranking for a short period and also made the semi-finals at the French Open but won just one WTA title last year.

The shoulder injury forced her to shorten the motion on her serve, however once healed she finished strongly by making the final of the Players' Championship in Madrid and expects to be challenging again in 2008.

"I have been healthy for three months now," she added.

"I had a good off season. Probably one of the best I've had.

"I'm only 20 and have been on the tour for four years and (I've learnt) you have got to really take care of the body.

"If I'm healthy then results-wise I know what I'm capable of."

Sharapova said that world number one Justine Henin, who holds a 6-2 career record over her, would again be one of the players to beat at the season's first grand slam though she always entered every tournament wary of any opponent.

"Obviously, Justine is coming off a great year but players that you play who have nothing to lose can be tough opponents. They come in as underdogs and play their best tennis.

"That's what I love about tennis, the competition."

Aside from the regular tournaments, Sharapova said she was looking forward to representing her country at the Beijing Olympics.

"Tennis is such an individual sport and the Olympics ...I don't see it as a tournament.

"When I was a little kid ... I'd be watching it on my little six-inch TV and hoping to be part of it one day.

"That will be one heck of an experience."

(Editing by Ossian Shine)