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Sharapova wins on return

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 27/04/2017 skysports.com
Getty © Provided by BSkyB Getty

Maria Sharapova marked her return from a 15-month doping ban with a 7-5 6-3 win over Roberta Vinci in Stuttgart.

The Russian former world No 1 and five-time Grand Slam champion tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, with her original two-year ban reduced on appeal.

The 30-year-old was, therefore, able to return to action at a tournament she has won three times previously courtesy of a wild card, just 24 hours after the end of her 15-month suspension.

Not all of her peers have welcomed Sharapova's return and Vinci was among the players who questioned whether she should be able to benefit from wild cards.

But Sharapova received a good reception when she was introduced to the crowd, although there was also some whistling when she entered the sold-out arena.

Getty © Provided by BSkyB Getty And, having made a nervous start, losing seven of the first eight points, she soon found her range and began unleashing her powerful ground strokes, eventually proving too strong for the Italian world No 36 after an hour and three-quarters on the court.

Sharapova served 11 aces against just three double faults and was only broken once while breaking four times herself.

She celebrated by blowing kisses to all corners of the Porsche Arena, before saying: "It's the best feeling in the world to walk out [on court].

"It's been a stage of mine since I was a young girl and it was very special. I have been waiting for this a long time.

"I've been doing this for so long and this was my first match for a while so, when you are in the moment, you block everything else out.

Getty © Provided by BSkyB Getty "I'm competitive by nature, even when things aren't working out.

"That's when I am at my best when I forget about everything, just be me and just compete."

She will now play fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the second round and added: "It's going to be tough, but every match I play now is important for me.

"It's important to just play. It's a journey and it officially starts for me today, and I am looking forward to playing as many matches as I can."

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