Russia’s Maria Sharapova claimed a straight sets victory on her return to tennis at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, following the completion of her doping ban.
Sharapova’s 15-month ban for testing positive for meldonium officially ended at midnight last night, enabling her to play her first competitive match since the 2016 Australian Open against Roberta Vinci at the Porsche Arena.
The return of the five-time Grand Slam champion dominated the build-up to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour event, with opponent Vinci one of several players to criticize the decision to grant Sharapova a wildcard.
The Italian would find herself on the wrong end of the result against Sharapova, with the Russian taking the first set of the match 7-5.
Sharapova, a three-time winner of the clay court tournament, sealed a straight sets win by taking the second 6-3.
She will now face her compatriot Ekaterina Makarova in the second round.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Sharapova said.
“The first few seconds before you enter the arena – it’s been a stage of mine since I was a young girl – I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.”
German car manufacturer Porsche have also reportedly renewed their relationship with Sharapova, having halted an arrangement after her ban was confirmed last year.
“Our work with Maria is no longer suspended and will continue as usual,” a Porsche spokesperson said, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
Romania’s Simona Halep was the first player through to the quarter-finals at the tournament, with the fourth seed overcoming the Czech Republic’s Barbora Strýcová.
Halep eased to a straight sets 6-2, 6-3 win to cruise into the last eight.
She will meet the winner of the match between Britain’s Johanna Konta and Lativa’s Anastasija Sevastova.
Konta recorded a 7-6, 3-6, 6-1 win over Japan’s Naomi Osaka to progress today.
France’s Kristina Mladenovic also triumphed, beating Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-4, 6-2 to set up a meeting with top seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.
By Michael Pavitt
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.