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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

ASB Classic says no to Maria Sharapova


Maria Sharapova
PHIL DOYLE/Sunday News
NO RETURN OF SERVE: World No 5 Maria Sharapova will not return for Auckland's ASB Classic in January, instead playing at the Brisbane International.(copyright ESPN Asia 2011)



ASB Classic tournament director Richard Palmer is philosophical about losing this year's main drawcard, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, to the upgraded Brisbane International next year.
The world No 5 and three-time grand slam champion has opted to tune up for January's Australian Open by playing in Brisbane, which has been upgraded to premier status by the WTA.
That means there is more prizemoney on offer in Brisbane and no restrictions on the number of top-10 players organisers can attract. The ASB Classic can only have one top-10 player and has a fifth of the prizemoney on offer across the ditch.
''She's only one player, albeit a very high profile player,'' Palmer said today.
''This year she chose to play here, next year she chose to play in Brisbane, and we wish her luck.''
Palmer said he had spoken to Sharapova's agent at Wimbledon and there was some initial interest in returning to New Zealand next year.
The 24-year-old pulled in big crowds in Auckland this year before bowing out in the quarterfinals at the hands of Greta Arn.
She reportedly pocketed a $130,000 appearance fee as well as $6500 in prizemoney.
Palmer will look at who is available and start making offers to players around the time of the US Open in early September. He was confident of attracting another top field.
''The field will be more than acceptable,'' he said.
''We're only allowed one top 10 anyway so if they all go to Brisbane we might be able to get more of the players just outside the top 10.''

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