Sharapova gives Brisbane a backhander
Maria Sharapova says the women's Brisbane International feels like a "second-hand event" after being forced to start on an outside court due to a clash with the men's ATP Cup.
But it seems she won't be getting too much sympathy from Australia's captain Lleyton Hewitt.
Sharapova became the latest women's star to raise questions about the inaugural men's team tournament having a monopoly on Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane this week after her shock first round loss to American qualifier Jennifer Brady on Tuesday night.
The ATP Cup holds its final round-robin matches in Brisbane on Wednesday. It ensures even the likes of Australia's world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty won't be able to feature on the main arena until Thursday at the earliest - the fourth day of the week-long women's season-opening Brisbane International.
Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens labelled it disrespectful of Barty.
"When you're a No. 1 player in the world who is going to play on the side court, I don't think that's great," Stephens said.
"It's kind of a respect thing. We just weren't in the conversation to even be considered. It was what the ATP wanted, they got what they wanted, girls to the side, that's kind of how it always is."
Dual Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova also claimed it wasn't fair, while Sharapova didn't hold back.
With Brisbane International tournament director Mark Handley looking on at her post-match press conference, Sharapova said the women's stars deserved to shine on the main arena from the outset.
"You definitely recognise it and notice it (starting on outside courts), it feels like a little bit of a second-hand event," she said.
"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, I think there are six out of (the world's) top 10 players (in Brisbane)."
Sharapova hoped the situation was addressed for future tournaments. "Everyone should have a conversation about it, that's just my outside view," she said.
But Hewitt claimed the men had also been affected by the tournament clash. "There's times this week though where we certainly haven't been able to get the practice times that we want," he said.
"I know there's meant to be certain allocation of courts for men, the men's teams as well, so I think it works both ways."