Sharapova takes centre stage in Wuhan


Maria Sharapova is set to make her first appearance since Wimbledon as she prepares to take her spot at the Wuhan Open.

A knee injury led to the Russian world number three missing the US Open, having last played in her semi-final loss to Serena Williams at the All England Club.

But the 28-year-old has accepted a wildcard into the WTA Premier event played on hard-courts in China as she looks for a strong finish to the season.

Sharapova, the second seed, has been given a kind draw, with either Czech Barbora Strycova or a qualifier awaiting her in her first outing – in the second round.

German Angelique Kerber is in Sharapova's quarter, while Caroline Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza are the top-ranked players in her half.

Kerber and Wozniacki met in Tokyo, where the Dane claimed a win in their quarter-final, but both are in decent form.

Tokyo marked Muguruza's first outing since the US Open, and she was sent packing in the last eight.

Romanian Simona Halep is the top seed in Wuhan and a Russian will await her in the second round, with Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to fight for that spot.

Halep's preparation was in Guangzhou, but she suffered a surprise last-eight loss to Czech Denisa Allertova.

The world number two's tricky quarter also includes Victoria Azarenka, Andrea Petkovic, Agnieszka Radwanska and Venus Williams.

Defending champion Petra Kvitova and fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova are also in the top half.

All eyes will be on Sharapova, eliminated in Wuhan in the last 16 in 2014, as she looks to kick-start her season.