Maria Sharapova will be relying on support from new coach Sven Groeneveld and boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov as she makes a return from a shoulder injury, playing as third seed at the ATP-WTA Brisbane Open that began on Sunday.
Sharapova arrived in Queensland with Dimitrov. She is seeded behind Serena Williams and double Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka in the women’s field.
She begins her first campaign at the event when she plays Caroline Garcia of France in the first round on Monday.
The LA-based Russian split after a Wimbledon second-round loss with long-time Swedish coach Thomas Hogstedt, then had an ill-fated month with Jimmy Connors before that arrangement broke up after one match.
Now, the tennis diva seems content with Dutchman Groeneveld, whose vast experience on the sidelines should prove useful for the four-time Grand Slam winner.
“From the first time we met I really liked what he (Groeneveld) had to say,” Sharapova said on Sunday. “I like when someone comes in and is honest and truthful and says it like it is.
“He’s that: he puts it all out on the table. He’s a team player, he works with everyone on my team, something I was missing for a little bit of time.” Sharapova said making hard decisions is all a part of her life. “You have to make them selfishly in this business to be better, to know what’s right for you, because time goes really fast.”
The 26-year old said she and Dimitrov talk about anything but tennis in their private moments, calling the sport “the elephant in the room” in the relationship with the 22-year-old Bulgarian ranked 23rd.
In the opening-day matches for women — men begin on Monday — German seventh seed Sabine Lisicki kick-started her season with a 6—3, 6—4 win over Madgelena Rybarikova.
Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan reached the second round with a 6—3, 7—5 win over Australian Olivia Rogowska, while Elina Svitolina beat American Varvara Lepchenko 6—3, 6—3 and Swiss Stephanie Voegele put out Madison Keys of the US 6—4, 6—3.
The last of three Americans exited when Germany’s Andrea Petkovic beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6—4, 7—5 in a battle of injury comeback players.
Former number one Caroline Wozniacki withdrew, citing a shoulder injury, but adding that the move was mainly a precaution in order to be able to play in Sydney and at the Australian Open.