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Maria Sharapova practises

Maria Sharapova was one of the first players to test centre court at Rod Laver Arena today, practising in the late afternoon sun.

The Russian world No.2 was hitting well from the baseline with hitting partner Vladimir Voltchkov, the former Wimbledon semifinalist from Belarus, and occasionally with coach Thomas Hogstedt.

Sharapova, the 2012 Australian Open finalist, was constantly encouraged by Hogstedt, who said, ‘Great shot!’ and ‘Perfect Maria’.

As the rallies intensified in the hour-long session, he said: ‘Hit it like it’s match point.’

During the breaks, Sharapova sat alone and periodically flexed her shoulder.

Sharapova is the first of big-name players to arrive in Melbourne for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, which gets underway at Melbourne Park on 14 January. 

They will be practising in hot conditions, with the temperature in Melbourne expected to reach 41 degrees on Friday, and in the high 30s early next week.

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