Sharapova targeting return to the top

Maria Sharapova hits a powerful forehand

Maria Sharapova solidified her comeback to tennis on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) as the former No.1 overcame a slow start to win her opening match at the Rome Masters, beating Christina McHale 6-4, 6-2.

The exchange began when Sharapova answered a question about how she was adjusting back to life as an athlete, during a press conference after her first round win at the Italian Open in Rome.

The Russian, who is a three-time victor of this event, will take on Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the second round.

In the ATP mens first round, ninth seed David Goffin beat Thomaz Bellucci 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4 and American Sam Querrey upset French 11th seed Lucas Pouille 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (10-8). "I want to thank the tournament for giving me the opportunity to play in this special event again".

Sharapova was handed a two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in June 2016 after being provisionally suspended following a positive test for meldonium at the Australian Open.

Sharapova took to the court less than an hour after it had been confirmed she will not receive a wildcard for Roland Garros, following her return from a 15-month doping ban.

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Several other players have criticised the decision of tournament organisers to welcome Sharapova back so readily.

"I would love to experience those feelings again. I arrived last night, practiced this morning and feeling good".

Sharapova also said that she was unaware of this week's rankings deadline for the Wimbledon qualifying draw. But fans cheered and held up signs of encouragement for Sharapova, a three-time Rome champion.

The first holds of serve finally came as there was an exchange of comfortable service hold before Sharapova fought back once more by earning the fourth break of serve in the set, leaving the scoreline tied at three games all.

Berdych matched his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, with 599 career victories. Also, Sam Querrey eliminated Lucas Pouille, a semifinalist past year, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (8).

"I know it does seem very convenient timing, but it is actually unrelated, genuinely unrelated, and we know that qualifying needs to continue to be improved, just like we improve facilities here at the Championships", he said.

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