Women's top seed Simona Halep will be starting her campaign in the Australian Open 2018 against Destanee Aiava of Australia, the draw revealed on Thursday January 11. The winner of the match will take on either Ocean Dodin or Canadian hottie Eugenie Bouchard in the second round of the tennis grand slam.
Also, last year's runner-up Venus Williams takes on Belinda Bencic in a tough first round match. The 20-year-old Swiss teamed up with the legendary Roger Federer in the 2018 Hopman Cup in Perth as they led Switzerland to the title.
Maria, meanwhile, seeded as low as 47th in the tournament, will face Tatjana Maria of Germany in the first round. The winner awaits either Anastasija Sevastova or Varvara Lepchenko in the second round.
A potential Aus Open 2018 round 2 match between the Russian Sharapova and the Lativian Sevastova will definitely remain one of the highlights of the tournament.
Maria focussed just on the top spot
"I think there is no easy way to get to the top. You always have to beat top players to get to the top," mentioned Maria, 30, on her tournament ranking. "There is a time you have to start from the bottom. After being away for such a long period, I had a lot of adjustments to make. It will take time.
"It's been ten years since I last won the Australian Open  and it does feel a bit old. This is because tennis is so repetitive, so rotational.
"I still continue to train when there's no one watching. I think that's what champions do -- train when no one's matching. I love the sport so much that I don't want to stop."
Maria Sharapova on retirement
"I haven't really contemplated retirement," she continued. "When I was in my teens, I thought I would never play past 30 as I would have a family to take care of. And there should be a stop after winning so many trophies.
"Now, however, I feel I still have so much to give to the sport. I would love to continue for more years and would love to have a family as well later.
"Being No 1 again remains the ultimate goal. There are a lot of ups and downs. I certainly would love to put myself in that situation as I have a lot of expectations on myself."