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Sharapova believes women’s tennis never better

Maria Sharapova believes the standard of women's tennis has rarely been better, but the Russian starlet is confident she can raise her game to continue challenging for titles."Definitely, I think there's a huge depth in women's tennis at the moment," the 20-year-old said yesterday."I think apart from Justine (Henin), who has been pretty dominant, especially towards the end of last year, I think there are a few girls that last year was their first year that they had really good results.The Williams were "always dangerous", too, she said."And also you can never underestimate those that are hungry to be in the top 20 or to be in the top 10, that go out and play against someone that's top five in the world or even top 10, because they go into those matches having nothing to lose."Sometimes that's just as dangerous as someone who is a top player," she said.The quality of players coming through and the high standard of competition only motivates Sharapova to improve, and she believes her best tennis can topple any woman in the world."I've done it before. I don't think you can ever count me out," she said. "No matter how confident or not, no matter where my ranking is, you know, I'm one of the toughest competitors out there."I never leave the court without giving a hundred percent, and that's why I think I gain a lot of respect from my fans and, you know, from the tennis audience. It's what I love to do," she added.Going into the Australian Open, where she was humiliated in the final by Serena Williams last year, Sharapova is injury free, which has boosted her confidence following a long layoff last year due to a niggly shoulder problem."I had a really good off season. Injury free. You know, I worked really hard, I put a lot of dedication into it. Waking up every single morning, I was looking forward to practice, getting better," she said."It was really refreshing because after a pretty difficult year, you know, it was great to be able to play tennis for such a long period of time without feeling concerned or worried about getting injured."Mindful of the shoulder problem, Sharapova opted for a light lead-in to the Australian Open, playing exhibitions in Singapore and Hong Kong.The real work starts next week with a potential second round clash against comeback mum Lindsay Davenport, who has won three of the four tournaments she has played since giving birth to a son.If Sharapova beats the American, she could then face world number one Henin in the quarter-finals.The motivation to win a third Grand Slam title is not an issue following her 6-1, 6-2 loss to Williams in the final last year, which she said she would carry with her for the rest of her career as a motivational spur."Well, there always is (motivation as a losing finalist)," she said.

"Even if you come into a tournament as the defending champion you remember the moments of that tournament, what you did well, how much you want to repeat that and do even better than you did or maybe, you know, win it twice."