Injury Derails Sharapova's Bid for No. 1 Ranking

August 12, 2005 05:00 PM

CARSON, Calif. (AP) --
Maria Sharapova's bid to gain the No. 1 ranking in the world derailed Friday when she withdrew from the JPMorgan Chase Open because of a strained chest muscle.

Sharapova, the tournament's top seed, was scheduled to play ninth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia in an evening quarterfinal match.

A victory would have given the 18-year-old Russian enough points to move from No. 2 into the world's top spot, overtaking injured American Lindsay Davenport.

"Reaching the No. 1 ranking has been a lifelong goal of mine, and achieving it here in Los Angeles would have been a dream come true,'' Sharapova said in a statement. ``I am eager to get back to feeling 100 percent healthy and playing as soon as possible.''

Sharapova had hinted Thursday that her status was doubtful. She said she played in pain during a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 third-round win over Anna Chakvetadze of Russia.

She said the injury affected her ability to serve hard and pound forehands, the biggest strengths of her game.

The WTA Tour said Sharapova's injury occurred during practice Monday, although she said she originally strained her right chest muscle in October at a tournament in Zurich, playing with heavier balls.

"Since then, it's been an on and off problem for me,'' she said Thursday. "I don't think the pain is going to go away with me trying to play and hit as hard as I can.''

She had an MRI on Wednesday that showed the muscle is inflamed, not torn. She had it taped for Thursday's match.

Sharapova insisted Thursday that she felt no pressure to continue playing despite the tournament being hard hit by the earlier injury withdrawals of Davenport, Serena Williams, Mary Pierce, Vera Zvonareva, Elena Likhovtseva and Ai Sugiyama.

"It's not important for me to play,'' she said, adding that her goal is to be healthy for the U.S. Open beginning Aug. 29.

With the losses of Davenport and Williams, tournament promoters had focused their advertising on Sharapova, including a giveaway of 5,000 bobblehead dolls in her likeness Friday night.