When the top female tennis players meet up in Istanbul on the 22nd October later this month, there will be one very noticeable absentee, the current world number three Maria Sharapova, as yet again an injury to her right shoulder has forced her to pull out of a tournament.

Following a disappointing exit at Wimbledon, in a game dominated by slips, Sharapova was hoping to avenge her demons at the US Open. But, following a surprising second round defeat to young American star Sloane Stephens in August at the Western and Southern Open, the Russian star hasn’t played since.

The Russian’s disappointment at being forced to pull out was clear, as she stated on her Facebook page.

“I am very disappointed. On the bright side, my shoulder has really improved in the last week, and I can finally begin my strength rehab," she wrote.

Her withdrawal means that seven of the spots in the competition are now filled, with Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na booking their places via their ranking.

In addition to these, Sharapova's absence means that Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani and Jelena Jankovic qualify for the end of season showcase and will most likely be joined by Angelique Kerber, as she is currently winning the race for the only spot on offer.

The favourite for the event is naturally the huge hitting, 17-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, who has proved unstoppable on tour this year, winning yet another title at the China Open just last week, cruising to a 6-2, 6-2 victory against the experienced Jankovic in the final.

It is hard to see any of the other women putting up a strong enough fight to overpower the American; the best chance is in the form of Azarenka, who ran her close in the US Open Final.

Although she ended up losing, it was an achievement to take her to three sets and showing that if she’s on top form, there is a chance that the Belarusian could take the title.

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