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Despondent Sharapova pulls out of Olympics

, August 1 – A despondent Maria Sharapova pulled out of the Beijing Olympics on Friday with a shoulder injury, depriving the Games of one of its biggest stars.

The glamorous Russian withdrew from the WTA Rogers Cup in Montreal on Wednesday after a marathon second-round win over Marta Domachowska, and a scan revealed two small tears in her right shoulder.

"I’m currently packing up real quick to hop on a plane to New York for a second opinion but I wanted to let you all know first that there is no chance of me competing in Beijing," she said on her official website.

"The timing is so unfortunate and this makes me more sad than anything."

The world number three’s match against Domachowska was her first since her disappointing performance at Wimbledon, where she was dumped out by fellow Russian Alla Kudryavtseva in the second round.

"After Wednesday’s match I knew there was something seriously wrong with my shoulder," she added on the website.

"After taking a few different exams and MRI’s, the doctors found two small tears in the tendons of my shoulder.

"There are so many mixed feelings because on Wednesday night they were almost positive there was something wrong with my nerve, which could have ultimately been much more serious.

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"But after Thursday morning’s tests, for the first time in a while, they were able to give me a different answer and a different problem."

"This is something that needs a lot of time to heal. It really hurts me to say I have to miss the Olympics," she said.

The injury also throws into doubt whether she will be fit for the US Open, which starts on August 25 in New York.

The 21-year-old has already suffered wear and tear this year, pulling out of her scheduled Italian Open semi-final in May against Jelena Jankovic because of a calf strain.

Sharapova joins a growing list of Beijing casualties, including former world number one and Athens Olympic silver medallist Amelie Mauresmo and fellow French star Mary Pierce.

While many other top names remain in the draw, Sharapova’s exit will be a big blow for Olympic organisers.

The pin-up attracts huge media interest and her name recognition is so powerful that an Internet search brings up over seven million results.

She is also a global brand off court, raking in an estimated 25 million dollars from endorsement deals so far.

But it is also a cruel blow for Sharapova herself. When she announced she would play at the Olympics, she said: "It has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl".

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"One of the things I’m really looking forward to is the opening ceremony and walking with athletes from my country in front of thousands of people."

With the three-time Grand Slam champion’s withdrawal, Serbian superstar Ana Ivanovic will be the centre of attention after claiming the number one spot and the French Open title in Paris.

But with defending champion Justine Henin’s shock retirement in May, and plenty of different winners already this year, the event is unpredictable.

‘s Jankovic holds the second ranking and Serena Williams will look to join a role of honour which includes her sister Venus, the current Wimbledon champion, by claiming the only major title to elude her.

The Games tennis event starts on August 10.

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