Maria Sharapova enters Australian Open tuneup tournament

Russian tennisist Maria Sharapova, who will take over the No. 1 ranking from Lindsay Davenport on Aug. 22, entered January's Australian women's hardcourt tennis tournament to prepare for the Australian Open.

The Jan. 1-7 Gold Coast tournament will be held at the Royal Pines Resort, where Switzerland's Patty Schnyder won last year's final, defeating Australian Samantha Stosur.

"Every tournament in the world would love to have Maria Sharapova play in their event and I'm thrilled she has chosen the Gold Coast to begin her 2006 Grand Slam campaign," tournament director Elizabeth Smylie said Tuesday.

Sharapova, 18, won at Wimbledon in 2004 and has nine other tour titles, including three this year in Tokyo, Doha and Birmingham, England. She withdrew from a Toronto tournament this week because of a strained chest muscle.

The Australian Open will be played from Jan. 16-29, 2006, the AP reports.

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