ROME - Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova said here on Monday that she was relieved to finally begin her clay court season. The Russian former Wimbledon champion had yet to set foot this season on red clay before arriving in Rome but she said she was looking forward to getting some preparation in before Roland Garros. "It feels really good. I got here a few days ago and set foot on the red clay finally," she said. "It's going to take a while. I think the adjustments from the green clay and red clay are quite different with the balance, and of course there's always the sliding. "But it's exciting to be back in Europe. I'm just thankful that I can get some matches in before the French (Open)." The world number two is seeded second in the Italian capital, the highest of the Russian players in the draw. She had a great start to the season, picking up titles in Doha and Amelia Island as well as the first Grand Slam of the year. She has lost only twice in 26 matches this year and also made her Fed Cup debut for her country, winning both her singles matches against Israel. She has since been selected for the Russian Olympic team and is delighted to be going to Beijing. "I'm absolutely thrilled. It's been a dream of mine since I was a very young girl from watching it on TV," she said. "In the middle of the night turning the TV on and waking up and watching the opening ceremonies to following all the athletes and waiting until Russia would walk out. "I was always looking forward to that moment when I somehow could get an opportunity. "It's quite hard to believe that sometimes your dreams can turn to reality. In a few months they will so that's quite exciting." Sharapova will begin her Rome campaign on Wednesday against either Argentine Gisela Dulko or Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova. She has played two tournaments on American green clay this season, winning at Amelia Island but losing to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals at Charleston. European red clay is her least favourite surface and Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam she has never won. Her best result was reaching the semi-finals last year when she lost to Ana Ivanovic, the top seed here in Rome.