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Sharapova slams lack of centre court time for female players

Angry: Maria Sharapova loses this week in Brisbane
Angry: Maria Sharapova loses this week in Brisbane

By Robert Jones

Maria Sharapova claimed the Brisbane International feels like "a second-hand event" after the women's tournament was shunted off the main court by the ATP Cup.

Traditionally, men and women would have shared top billing, but the introduction this year of the ATP Cup means no women's matches have so far been played on Pat Rafter Arena.

That will change today, when action at the ATP Cup switches entirely to Sydney, but the scheduling has come in for criticism.

The women's tournament is traditionally very strong, and this year's field includes home favourite and World No.1 Ashleigh Barty and defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka.

After losing her first-round match to Jennifer Brady, Sharapova said in Brisbane: "You definitely recognise it and notice it, it feels like a little bit of a second-hand event.

"I think on Thursday the girls go back on centre court. But it's definitely a bit of a strange strategic move.

"I think there's a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre court spot in this draw."

Tournament director Mark Handley said in a statement that talks are ongoing with the WTA over a "new concept".

There was good news for Sharapova yesterday with confirmation she has been given a wild card for the Australian Open, which starts on January 20 in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal maintained their perfect records at the ATP Cup while Argentina, Canada and Belgium all booked their spots in the quarter-finals.

Serbia had already qualified prior to their 2-1 victory over Chile in Brisbane, where Djokovic defeated Cristian Garin 6-3 6-3 to make it three singles victories and one doubles win so far.

Spain finished the group stage with a perfect 9-0 record after beating previously unbeaten Japan in Perth. Serbia and Spain cannot meet until the final, so the prospect of a first clash of the season between Nadal and Djokovic must wait.

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