Sharapova struggles but advances

Maria Sharapova shook off some rust after injury and a 15-month doping ban to beat Jennifer Brady at the Stanford Classic yesterday morning (Singapore time).

It was the five-time Grand Slam champion's first match in the United States in more than two years.

Sharapova, who returned to tennis in April after being banned for testing positive for meldonium, suffered a thigh injury at the Italian Open in May and struggled to put away Brady before she won 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

"I feel like I just want to hug everyone and say, 'thank you'," she said during an on-court interview after her triumph as a wildcard.

"It's my first match in the States in a really long time, and it's the closest thing to home for me. The welcome has been incredible and finally playing so close to home was really special."

Sharapova was pushed by Brady who forced several long games during the match.

In the opening set, Sharapova saved three break-points in the sixth game but managed to hold to take a 5-1 lead before she sealed the set in the next game.

Brady won the second set after racing to a 3-0 lead, before Sharapova claimed the third set to set up a clash with seventh seed Lesia Tsurenko, who beat Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino 6-3, 6-3.

"I had a bit of a letdown but that's the way it is," Sharapova said of her loss of the second set.

"I feel like I'm playing catch-up against everyone.

"All that matters is that I keep playing. The more I play, the better I'll do. That's the goal." - REUTERS

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