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Kerber fit to face Sharapova challenge in Rome

Maria Sharapova was in ominous form at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, putting possible third-round opponent Angelique Kerber on notice.

AngeliqueKerber - cropped
World number one Angelique Kerber

World number one Angelique Kerber expects to be fit to compete at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia and the German will need to be sharp after potential third-round opponent Maria Sharapova began her tournament in dominant fashion.

Kerber withdrew at 6-3 5-0 down to Eugenie Bouchard in Madrid last week, having suffered a hamstring injury.

As the 29-year-old took to the practice courts to test her fitness, Sharapova dispatched Christina McHale 6-4 6-2.

But Kerber is confident she will be at top speed as she awaits Tuesday's winner between Andrea Petkovic and Anett Kontaveit in the second round.

"I'm feeling much better," Kerber said. "I did a check after my match in Madrid, and I was actually lucky that it's not too bad and it was just a muscle strain.

"I had a lot of treatments the last days, a lot of hours with doing things. I'm feeling much better."

 

SHARAPOVA SMASHES INTO SECOND ROUND (and Wimbledon)

Sharapova began what could be a pivotal week in her season impressively, as she overcame a sluggish start to beat McHale.

The Russian will discover if she has received a wildcard for the French Open on Tuesday, but her fate for the year's third major at Wimbledon is now secured.

Monday's straight-sets success will take Sharapova into the world's top 200 and guarantee a place in the qualifying draw at the All-England Club.

"Winning matches will get me places, so if that's where it got me, then I will take it," Sharapova said.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (16) is next up for Sharapova, who won when the pair met just last week in Madrid. 
 

VENUS ON FIRE

Venus Williams looked in fine form in her first red clay-court match of the season, seeing off Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4 7-6 (7-4).

The veteran American has never won the French Open, having reached her only final in 2002, where she lost to her sister Serena.

But as the Australian Open champion sits out the remainder of the season through her pregnancy, it is up to the elder Williams to carry the family name in Paris.

Williams, in second seed Karolina Pliskova's side of the draw, has a second-round meeting with Lesia Tsurenko to come.
 

VESNINA'S VEXING FORM RUMBLES ON

Elena Vesnina looked set for success in 2017 when she took the Indian Wells title.

However, it has been all downhill for the Russian since then and the 11th seed was dumped out in straight sets by qualifier Wang Qiang on Monday.

Since Indian Wells, Vesnina has lost five of her six matches and a poor performance saw the Chinese win more than half of the points on her opponents first and second serve.

 

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