MELBOURNE: Former champion Maria Sharapova enjoyed a winning return to the Australian Open as she wore down Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-1 6-4 on Tuesday to take her place in the second round.
The 30-year-old Russian, who served a 15-month doping ban last year after testing positive for banned substance meldonium after her Melbourne defeat by Serena Williams in 2016, met some rugged resistance but had too much power for Maria.
There was plenty of support for 47th ranked five-times grand slam champion Sharapova with regular shouts of “C’mon Masha, we’ve missed you” around the Margaret Court Arena.
Her opponent was actually one place higher on the WTA rankings and the same age as Sharapova, but there was a vast difference in pedigree with the German never having gone beyond the third round in 22 previous grand slams.
She was made to work harder in the second but sealed victory with an ace to book a second round against either 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova or Varvara Lepchenko.
“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been here so I wanted to enjoy the moment and it was really meaningful to be out here today,” Sharapova said in a post-match interview.
“I’ve got shivers, I cherish these moments.” –REUTERS