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Maria Sharapova on course for Wimbledon after opening win in Rome


Three tournaments into her return from a 15-month doping ban, Maria Sharapova has already gained enough rankings points to enter qualifying for Wimbledon.

A tough opening game of the second set saw Sharapova display some tough mental skills as she prevailed in the nervy service game, carrying the momentum over from the first set. She may receive a main draw wild card but many believe that it is more likely that she will be given a wild card into the qualifying draw.

"Oh, is it? See, I think maybe you guys assume that I know these things, but I genuinely want to take care of each and every single week, and every single match is a priority for me", Sharapova said. The German two-time Grand Slam champion was forced to quit while trailing Canadian Eugenie Bouchard but arrived in Rome on Sunday ready to play in the last big claycourt event before Roland Garros begins on May 28.

Sharapova was broken by McHale in the opening game and went on to drop serve twice more in the first set before finding her groove.

The first holds of serve finally came as there was an exchange of comfortable service hold before Sharapova fought back once more by earning the fourth break of serve in the set, leaving the scoreline tied at three games all. But the rhythm steadied as the experienced Sharapova pegged back her opponent and got to work to sweep the first set from the back foot.

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"I know the score shows it was 6-1 in the third, but it doesn't feel like that at all", Pavlyuchenkova told press after the two hour and thirty-five minute match.

The Russian, who is a three-time victor of this event, will take on Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the second round, who overcame the challenge of Lucie Safarova in three sets.

"I am feeling much better, I mean I did a check after my match in Madrid and I'm lucky it's not too bad, it's just a muscle strain", she was quoted as saying on the WTA "I've had a lot of treatments". But as I said, every week is important.

Australia's Bernard Tomic was knocked out, however, going down in three sets to Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff, 6-7, 6-1, 6-4.

In men's action, Olympic silver medalist Juan Martin del Potro rallied past Grigor Dimitrov 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

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