Sharapova aims for top spot after return to form
Maria Sharapova is looking to return to the No. 1 spot in the world rankings after rediscovering her best form this year.
Sharapova endured a difficult few years after undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of 2008, but has come back brilliantly and briefly reached No. 1 after winning the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.
''Obviously the goal is always to shoot for top spot and that's always where you want to be and stay,'' Sharapova said on Friday. ''It's one thing to reach the No. 1 ranking, another to keep it.
''But what's most important and the main goal is to win as many matches as you can and then the rankings takes care of itself. To get to No. 1 the only thing to do is to work hard and you have to treat every match, no matter what it is, the same. That's what we all do.''
Sharapova is in Milan to play an exhibition tournament on Saturday, with another former No. 1, Ana Ivanovic. They will face Italians Sara Errani, who Sharapova beat in the French Open final, and Roberta Vinci.
Errani also comes into the tournament off the back of a fantastic year, which has seen her rise from No. 45 at the beginning of 2012 to No. 6. As well as reaching the final at Ronaldo Garros, Errani also progressed to the semifinals of the US Open and won the doubles title at both events with Vinci.
''I never expected it all either, it's been an incredible year,'' Errani said. ''Starting from the Australian Open, I had very great results and was consistent, in the singles as well as the doubles. It will be hard to repeat that next year, but I will always try to give my maximum.
''Sharapova is a very strong player, so obviously it will be very difficult, but I'll try. She's very difficult to play against, very strong with lots of power. I'll do my best but it won't be easy.''
The match takes place after Ivanovic's against Vinci, while the Italian duo - who are top of the doubles rankings - then play together against Sharapova and Ivanovic.
Ivanovic, who is currently No. 13, is also aiming to get back to the top of the rankings, a place she last occupied after winning the French Open in 2008.
''That's my goal,'' she said. ''I'm here and I feel I really have the potential to get back to the top and I want to work hard to do so. Last year was great, I hope this year will be even better.
''2008 was amazing. I still remember that week in Paris. It was crazy because I realized two big dreams at the same time. It was very, very overwhelming. But it's true that since then it hasn't gone as I would have wanted but there is still time to get back there and I have all the ability to do so.''
Vinci crushed Ivanovic 6-0, 6-0 at the Rogers Cup in August - the first time the Serbian had lost by such a result - but the world No. 16 isn't expecting a similar result on Saturday.
''That was a very particular match,'' Vinci said. ''Everything worked out for me and nothing for her. So it won't be the same tomorrow but I will give it everything.''