Maria Sharapova shook off some rust after injury and a 15-month doping ban to beat Jennifer Brady in her first match in the United States in more than two years on Monday at the Stanford Classic.
The five-times grand slam champion, 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 advanced with a 6-1 4-6 6-0 win.
“I feel like I just want to hug everyone and say thank you,” Sharapova told an on-court interview after her triumph as a tournament wildcard.
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 rebounded when she raced away to a 3-0 lead in the second set, before Sharapova regrouped to run away with the match in the third to set up a clash with seventh seed Lesia Tsurenko, who beat Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino 6-3 6-3.