Maria Sharapova's shoulder injury has kept her out of play since Cincinnati. (Michael E. Keating/AP)
Maria Sharapova's 2013 season is over. The third-ranked Russian has withdrawn from the season-ending WTA Championships citing the same right shoulder injury that forced her to pull out of the U.S. Open. Sharapova, a runner-up last year, has played just three matches since making the French Open final in June and hasn't played since losing to Sloane Stephens in the second round of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.
"I am very disappointed that I will not be able to play in the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships this year," Sharapova said. "The fans in Istanbul have welcomed us each year with such intense passion and warmth, I will sincerely miss the energy and excitement they brought to the year-end tournament. I want to thank Istanbul for being a tremendous host and hope to play in Turkey sometime in the future."
It's a tough end to a season that saw a slight dip in form from Sharapova. She won titles in Indian Wells and Stuttgart, and made the finals in Miami, Madrid and the French Open, losing each one to Serena Williams. After crashing out of Wimbledon in the second round, Sharapova split with her long-time coach Thomas Hogstedt and flirted with a short-lived partnership with Jimmy Connors, which lasted for just one match.
Sharapova's withdrawal has led the way for three more players to qualify. French Open semifinalist Sara Errani qualifies for the second straight year, and Petra Kvitova, who is coming off a strong Asian swing after winning the Toray Pan Pacific Open and making the semifinals of the China Open, is into the year-end event for the third-straight year. The most surprising name on the qualification list is Jelena Jankovic, who is back into the Championships for the first time since 2010. That proves how the top-ranked Serb put in a year's hard work, as she began the season ranked outside the top 20.
They will join a field that already includes defending champion Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na. That leaves just one spot remaining, with the primary contenders being Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens.
This is the last year Istanbul will host the tournament. The Championships move to Singapore in 2014.