Sharapova slams Azarenka for blaming WTA rules

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Russia's Maria Sharapova caused a stir at the Italian Open on Friday when she questioned Victoria Azarenka's claim that she had been forced to quit to protect her ranking.

Azarenka won her first match against Shahar Peer, but then immediately pulled out of the tournament, citing a right shoulder injury.

On Friday, Azarenka said via Twitter that she had to play in the first game in order to protect her position at the top of the world rankings.

However, Sharapova said the Belarussian was "injured more than anyone" and was often seen "practising two days later".

"I was conflicted and disappointed to withdraw from Rome," Azarenka said. "I tried my hardest but I wasn't healthy going into the tournament.

"If WTA rules were different then I could have focused on getting healthy, but I could not afford another zero pointer on my ranking."

"Hopefully in the future there will be more protection for players' rights."

A 'zero pointer' means players have to include that particular tournament in their ranking calculations and cannot replace it with another.

Sharapova said Azarenka had a history of injuries and withdrawals.

"She's been injured more than anyone and still stayed number one," Sharapova said.

"Last year I think she had more injuries than anyone else. Sometimes she'll withdraw and then you'll see her practising two days later."

Sharapova, who had to take almost a year off because of a shoulder surgery, said staying fit was more important to her than paying a fine or losing points.

"For me, if I'm injured, then it doesn't matter how much the fine is, I am not going to play," she said.

"My body and my health are the most important things and if you lose points or have a fine, I don't care about that."

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