Defending champion Maria Sharapova has been forced to withdraw from the Australian Open due to her slower-than-expected recovery to full fitness following a shoulder injury.
Sharapova advised tournament officials on Sunday that she would not be able to defend her crown at Melbourne Park beginning Jan. 19. Her Australian Open triumph started an 18-match winning streak last season, enabling the Russian to briefly reclaim her No. 1 ranking in May. But the shoulder injury hampered her progress in the second half of the year, forcing her out of the Beijing Olympics and the US Open and ending her season.