Maria Sharapova marked her first match since being banned for 15-months for an anti-doping violation by securing victory over Roberta Vinci at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart. Having been handed a wild card into the main draw, the 30-year-old won 7-5 6-3.
After receiving a lukewarm reception from the German crowd, Sharapova showed a few nerves on her first competitive appearance since the 2016 Australian Open, being broken in her opening service game. However, a run of four games in a row saw her secure the opening set and break early in the second.
Vinci offered little resistance as the five-time Grand Slam champion powered to victory in one hour 43 minutes, hitting 11 aces and 39 winners. She will face fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in round two.
"It's the best feeling in the world, those few seconds before you enter the arena," Sharapova said after the win. "It has been a stage of mine since I was a little girl and to know that I would be walking back on it was very special. I have been waiting for this moment for a long time.
"It's the most [time away from tennis] since I had shoulder surgery. I didn't know when I would be back. I wanted to do other things in my life; I wanted to explore, I wanted to learn. I went to school for a little bit, I was working a little bit growing my business.
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"I also had a pretty normal life for a while. I kept in shape but I put the racket away for a little bit and that definitely invigorated me when I came back in January and started training.
"The thing that I have done over the past 15 months is grow as a person, and in life, and I felt that I really had to step up and do that. This what I have done for so long, and when you're in the moment and you try and block everything out.
"I am a competitor by nature and when things are not working that is what I do, and that is when I am my best, and I am just me, and I compete. The journey starts officially today and I am looking forward to playing as many matches as possible."
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