Maria Sharapova, playing in her first tournament since February, began with a win to reach the second round of the WTA grass-court tournament in Mallorca, Spain.
The Russian, a former world No.1 and five-time Grand Slam champion, beat Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova 7-6(8) 6-0.
In the last 16 she will play defending Wimbledon champion and top seed Angelique Kerber, who overcame Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure in three sets later on Tuesday.
Sharapova had been sidelined for four months due to a chronic shoulder injury; her last outing came at the St Petersburg tournament more than four months ago.
First match in a few months. First win on grass since 15’. I don’t usually get my phone out until I’m finished with my cool down ( only to write to mama ????) but this deserves a selfie ??????????????? pic.twitter.com/YARbPdRb3Z
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) June 18, 2019
“It’s always nice to get a victory,” the wildcard said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been out there, so it was good to put down a few things I’ve worked on, put the arms into action. There’s still a lot to work on and improve, but I had to start somewhere.
“I was just really looking forward to coming back and playing a match. You’ve done so much work, and a lot of it is a grind.
“So much of your focus is on the injury and trying to make it better, so it was nice to let that go and get back to business, which I’ve done since I was very young. It was nice to have that feeling back.”
Sharapova and Kerber have split eight career meetings, yet Kerber has won the past three and has not lost to Sharapova in more than six years.
Earlier on Tuesday, last week’s Nottingham champion Caroline Garcia scored a thrilling 1-6 6-4 7-5 win over former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka.
Garcia trailed 3-1 in the final set, yet she closed the gap and, from 4-5 down, reeled off the final three games of the match to seal victory in exactly two hours.
In an extraordinarily loaded top quarter of the draw, the former world No.4 will face the winner of the Sharapova-Kerber clash should she get past Spanish wildcard Paula Badosa.
“It was definitely difficult. I arrived only yesterday. So I had to get everything ready and organise myself, and be ready,” Garcia told wtatennis.com after extending her winning streak to six matches.
“For sure, I was feeling tired in the first set, but sometimes, mentally, you are stronger than you think.
“I kept fighting very hard, and even if I don’t feel good in the first set, I know I can improve. If I want to win the match, I have to give everything I have even if it’s not the best ever, but it’s the best for the day.”
Other winners on Tuesday included French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova; the 17-year-old saved a match point in the second set to run out a 3-6 7-6(7) 6-4 winner over Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova.
Second seed Anastasija Sevastova advanced in straight sets, as did 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur.
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