Beaten Australian Open finalist Maria Sharapova made a winning start at the WTA Paris Open on Wednesday, beating South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 16.
Given a first-round bye owing to her top seeding, the Russian world No. 3 was competing in her first match at the Pierre de Coubertin arena. Sharapova had been forced out of Russia’s Fed Cup victory over Spain on Sunday because of a cold, but she showed no signs of ill health against world No. 44 Scheepers.
The 24-year-old three-time Grand Slam-winner will face either Romania’s Monica Niculescu or Angelique Kerber of Germany in the next round.
“I had a few problems finding my rhythm at the start,” Sharapova said. “The court is pretty quick, but I really like these conditions and once I’d got my bearings, it went better.”
With Li Na and Jelena Jankovic having both been forced out of the tournament by injury, Sharapova’s rival for the title is likely to be French second seed Marion Bartoli.
Italian seventh seed Roberta Vinci reached round two with a straight sets win over Romanian Simona Halep, but eighth-seeded Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues fell 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to home favorite Pauline Parmentier.
“There were lots of people who are very important to me around the court,” said Parmentier, the French No. 2. “That allowed me to push myself to the limit. I forced myself to do it.”