ABU DHABI, UAE - Maria Sharapova says she is looking forward to getting back on court after an injury-hit 2019 season and that Rafael Nadal is inspiring her to do so.
The five-time Grand Slam winner has admitted her frustration that in the last year she was only able to enter eight events, playing a total of 15 matches on Tour and none at all since exiting the US Open in the first round at the hands of great rival Serena Williams.
But the former WTA World No.1, who is now at 131 in the Rankings, says she is eager to get back and compete at the highest level.
“I really love what I do. I think you see it when I am on the court, when I do have the chance to compete, I really enjoy being there. I really have a great purpose for what I do,” she said after winning an exhibition match with Ajla Tomljanovic in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
“I have goals and dreams for life after tennis, but I still have that internal fire and motivation. Really, all on my mind when I wake up is getting into my sports gear and going out and working to be a better tennis player.”
Nadal is Sharapova’s inspiration currently, with the 33-year-old top of the ATP Rankings.
“I'm in awe of his whole career. I think a lot of it is being really smart strategically about his schedule,” she said.
“From his point of view, he likes a lot of matches to feel confident, but you need to be healthy in order to do that, so you have to make the right decisions and that's certainly something that I can learn from him.”
The 32-year-old is, therefore, mindful that picking her events will be central to her success in 2020.
“I think that will be one of the biggest challenges for the new year, it's to have a set schedule,” she said.
“I definitely look forward to going to Australia and seeing how things go, see how the body holds up there.
“It's tough to tell, I've barely played any events last year. The start and stopping was one of the most challenging parts of the year as well, just when you think I got going a little bit I had to tone it down and stop and then just keep training. Although it seems I haven't played actually I've been working a lot.”