Fired-up Sharapova fights back to reach Madrid second round
Having fallen a set down, Maria Sharapova recovered to beat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the Madrid Open first round.
Maria Sharapova came from behind to claim an ultimately comfortable 4-6 6-4 6-0 victory over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the first round of the Madrid Open on Sunday.
Sharapova made her comeback in April following a 15-month ban for failing a drugs test, reaching the semi-finals at the Stuttgart Open – a performance that saw her re-enter the WTA rankings at number 262.
An exhibition defeat to Monica Puig in the Spanish capital followed and her Madrid Open campaign threatened to be a short one as the controversial wildcard entry fell a set down to Lucic-Baroni.
However, the fired-up Russian fought back against the world number 20 to set up a second-round clash with Eugenie Bouchard.
Lucic-Baroni needed three chances to make an advantage stick in a tight opening set.
After breaking Sharapova in the opening game, Lucic-Baroni was immediately pegged back, and another exchange of breaks soon followed.
Lucic-Baroni's break to go 4-3 in front proved decisive in the context of the first set, but it was Sharapova who struck first in the second.
After going 3-1 up on her opponent's serve, the former world number one battled to an important hold, but squandered four set points as Lucic-Baroni got back on terms.
The Croatian was beginning to struggle with her first serve and unforced errors, however, and a long backhand gifted Sharapova the set.
Lucic-Baroni's third-set fortunes were summed up by a forehand she managed to inexplicably send wide to afford Sharapova the comfort of a 5-0 lead.
Sharapova had the bit between her teeth and finished off the 17th seed with another break of serve to seal her progression.