After having served a reduced 15 month ban for testing positive for the banned substance, Meldonium, Maria Sharapova of Russia, returned to the tour today as a wildcard entrant, to face Roberta Vinci of Italy in the first round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
The former, three-time winner of this tournament, faced a mixed welcome from the packed crowd and followed that up with a rather jittery start in the first set, which saw the Italian going 2-0 up. It took the Russian five attempts in the third game to break the Italian’s serve, which then settled her nerves.
As old habits die hard, Sharapova was soon back to her vocal self, fist pumping regularly and dominating the game from the baseline. Despite some nervous unforced errors, she matched the Italian and courtesy of a forehand winner that didn’t bounce, won the first set.
Sharapova soon took the lead in the second set. Vinci gave it her all, but could only smile as she watched the Russian’s powerful serves and returns sail past her. Sharapova clinched the second set and match on Vinci’s serve. The final score was 7-5 6-3.
Sharapova, who was luckily not sidelined with any injuries, was able to prepare properly for her return and it showed, as she blasted 11 aces past Vinci today.
A delighted Sharapova let out a few extra screams of joy after the match. Signs of things to come.
Her next opponent will be another Russian player, Ekaterina Makarova, who saw off the 7th seed, Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 6-4.