MELBOURNE – Maria Sharapova says she is inspired by the likes of thirty somethings Serena Williams and Roger Federer to get back to the top after her doping ban.
The Russian, back in the top 50 after 15 months on the sidelines, had her progress at the Australian Open ruthlessly snuffed out by 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in the third round Saturday.
"I'm here because I'm motivated to get better at my craft. I really do believe that I can otherwise I wouldn't be here," said the five-time Grand Slam champion after losing 6-1, 6-3 in 64 minutes.
"I definitely take great examples of a Federer or a Nadal or a Serena and Venus that have continued to have the motivation that they do at this age," said Sharapova who turns 31 in April.
"It's not just walking through a Grand Slam tunnel and getting on court.
"There's so much more to it. I have a lot of admiration for that because I know what goes into creating those moments and getting to that stage.
"Yeah, that definitely inspires me, absolutely."
Sharapova, one of the highest earners in women's sport, suffered a string of early defeats after her comeback last April for taking performance-enhancing meldonium but has been working her way back up the rankings since.
"I think there are a lot of things that I need to get better at and improve on. But looking at the overall picture, the first thing is that I'm healthy," a clearly disappointed Sharapova told reporters.
"That, to me, is a big thing because I'll be back on the practice court, I'm not starting from zero."
It was Sharapova's second Grand Slam appearance since her doping ban.
In her first at the US Open last year, as a wildcard she was beaten in the fourth round by Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova.
But she turned the tables against the Melbourne Park 14th seed two days ago winning 6-1 7-6 (7/4).
"There's a lot to build from," said Sharapova.
"It's a lot of things that take time. To be able to get these matches, players that are playing this well, I'm going to face a lot of them this year. I'll have to bring it.