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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sharapova Says No. 1 Can Wait

APSharapova bowing as she is introduced to a news conference in Tokyo on Monday.
TOKYO -- Maria Sharapova will give top priority to the defense of her Wimbledon title this year, after insisting the world No. 1 ranking can wait.

"Being No. 1 is not for this year, I don't think," Sharapova said in an interview Tuesday. "For this year, I would love to defend Wimbledon. It's what drives me."

"My main goal is to be No. 1 in the world of course," added the Russian, who is playing at this week's Pan Pacific Open tournament in Tokyo.

"But if it's not tomorrow, or not in a year then, you know, if it will happen it will happen -- if not, whatever."

Sharapova was less ambivalent when asked about her fierce rivalry with Serena Williams, whom she beat in last year's Wimbledon final and at the season-ending WTA Tour Championships.

But the world No. 4 squandered match point in a 2-6, 7-5, 8-6 loss to Williams in last week's Australian Open semifinals, leaving them tied at two apiece in their head-to-head record.

"With Serena, it probably is the biggest rivalry [in women's tennis] because we have such great matches," said the 17-year-old. "It's great for the game. It's amazing."

Williams rose from seventh to second in the rankings after beating Lindsay Davenport in the Australian Open final to win her seventh Grand Slam title.

"It was good experience," Siberian-born Sharapova said of the match against Williams.

"Obviously, it was disappointing to lose when you're a point away from winning the match. But you know, I have no regrets."

Sharapova has received a frenzied welcome in Japan, with reporters tripping over themselves to get near her, forcing the teenager to seek sanctuary in a Tokyo temple earlier this week.

But the Florida-based player, a part-time model who, like Williams, also has ambitions as a fashion designer, has made it clear she is in Japan on business.

"It's exciting," Sharapova said.

"But whoever's across the net, I want to beat them -- no matter how small or big, or difficult or easy they are."

 Japan's Ai Sugiyama suffered her fourth straight first-round defeat when she was beaten 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 by Italian Roberta Vinci at the Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday.

However, there were resounding victories for sixth seed Yelena Likhovtseva and eighth seed Daniela Hantuchova in Tokyo.

Serbian Jelena Jankovic was another casualty in Tokyo, the seventh seed knocked out by Czech Iveta Benesova, who came through to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.