Maria Sharapova’s campaign got underway in a Caja Mágica bathed in the Madrid sun, and the Mutua Madrid Open crowd were treated to a demonstration of will power. The Russian, 2014’s champion, won a tough match 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 after two hours and 12 minutes of tennis against the Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, reminding us of her ability to dig deep.
Growing in confidence throughout the match and eventually breaking her opponent’s last four serves, Sharapova stamped her ticket to the second round with impressive conviction. The Russian will now take on Canadian player Eugenie Bouchard as she bids for a place in the last sixteen.
The day’s opening match in the Manolo Santana Stadium saw Angelique Kerber, the number one seed, put in a solid performance, beating the Hungarian Timea Babos 6-4, 6-2. The German world number 2 made a breakthrough in the Spanish capital as she won her first match at the Mutua Madrid Open since reaching the quarter-finals in 2012.
The left-hander from Bremen produced a dominant display with an intimidating first service (78% accurate) and constantly proved her ability to return (with six breaks from nine attempts). Now, having taken the first step, she will be fighting for a place in the last sixteen against Czech player Katerina Siniakova or the French Pauline Parmentier, who came through qualifying.
Other first-round matches in the main draw saw victories for the French Kristina Mladenovic (5-7, 6-3, withdrawal of Ana Konjuh), Croatian player Donna Vekic (6-3, 6-4 over Yulia Putintseva), the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova (6-4, 6-3 over Yaroslava Shvedova), the Chinese qualifier Qiang Wang (6-3, 6-4 over Caroline Garcia) and US players Catherine Bellis (7-5, 5-7, 6-2 over Daria Gavrilova) and Lauren Davis (6-3, 4-6, 7-6 over Monica Puig).