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Sharapova readies for Wimbledon

BIRMINGHAM, England -- Despite missing the past 10 months rehabilitating after shoulder surgery, Maria Sharapova says she hasn't ruled out winning Wimbledon again -- but probably not this year.

"I wouldn't be back playing here if I thought winning Wimbledon again was impossible," Sharapova said Saturday at a news conference for the Aegon Classic, a grass court warm-up for Wimbledon.

Five years ago, Sharapova reached the semifinals in Birmingham as a 17-year-old qualifier. The following year she won the title and followed it three weeks later by beating Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final.

The former top-ranked player and three-time Grand Slam tournament title winner said it is a thrill just to be playing again after nearly a year off.

"It gives me so much pleasure, just going out there," Sharapova said. "This is the first time in my career where I didn't have the chance to pick up a racket on a daily basis."

Sharapova said that after such a long layoff, her short-term expectations were limited.

Last week she was soundly beaten by Dominika Cibulkova at the French Open, losing the first 11 games, eventually losing 6-0, 6-2.

"All I can ask myself is to go out there and do the right things and try to get the job done," Sharapova said. "Hopefully my body stays well and stays healthy."

The Florida-based Russian denied that the lopsided loss had anything to do with her surgically repaired shoulder.

"My body and my shoulder are feeling really good," she said. "After such a long layoff every match and every situation is a different test to the body."

Since her ranking has fallen outside the top 100 -- she is currently No. 102 -- Sharapova is unseeded in Birmingham. She will play Stephanie Dubois of Canada, ranked No. 111, on either Monday or Tuesday.