Former world No.1 Maria Sharapova made a winning comeback to the tour on Wednesday following her 15-month doping ban, beating Italian Roberta Vinci in straight sets in the first round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Russian, three-time winner on Stuttgart’s clay courts, received a controversial wild card for the German tournament, having had no ranking points after more than a year out following her suspension for banned substances.
She had a nervous start in front of a supportive crowd but quickly found her strokes and her trademark shrieks to power past the world No. 36 7-5, 6-3 and set up a second-round clash against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova.
Sharapova’s initial two-year suspension was reduced to 15 months after she tested positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium, a medication the Russian had been taking within the rules but which was then reclassified as a banned drug.