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Rome win puts Sharapova into Wimbledon qualifying range

Rome, May 16, (GNA/dpa) – Maria Sharapova won her opening match at the Rome Masters on Monday with a 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Christina McHale, thereby gaining a spot in the Wimbledon qualifying draw.

Should the five-time grand slam winner reach the semi-final at the Foro Italico, she would be into the main draw at the All England club after her ranking broke into the top 200 as a result of her first-round success against McHale.

Sharapova is playing her third event since serving out a 15-month doping ban for the medicine meldonium last month. She reached the Stuttgart semi-final last month and won a round in Madrid last week.

Winning matches will get me places, so if that’s where it got me today, then I will take it,” the Russian said.

“The fact that I’m back and playing three weeks and three events in a row, for me is a big deal. That’s my focus.”

The former number one ignored seven double-faults to prevail for the sixth time against McHale, winning in 90 minutes.

The 30-year-old Russian lost serve while trying to close out victory leading 5-1 in the second set, but broke back a game later to wrap it all up.

“It felt slow and the conditions are quite different to Madrid,” the three-time champion. “It certainly took a few more games than I would have liked to get used to. But once I did, I felt like I took care of the second set quite well.”

Sharpova will hear on Tuesday any news regarding her appeal for a Wimbledon main draw wild card.

“I’ll focus on my match, I’m playing tomorrow,” Sharapova said. “Nothing is a disappointment after being away from the game for 15 months.

“Winning matches will get me places, so if that’s where it got me today, then I will take it.”

The match began with three breaks of serve in 17 minutes as McHale briefly led 3-1 before her experienced opponent got her game fully up and running.

Sharapova, who is making her ninth Rome appearance, won the title in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

In the men’s draw, Juan Martin del Potro rallied past Grigor Dimitrov, winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in just over two hours.

Belgian ninth seed David Goffin stopped Thomaz Bellucci 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4 and Sam Querrey of the United States sprang a surprise on French 11th seed Lucas Pouille 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (10-8).

Tomas Berdych, the number 12, beat German Mischa Zverev 7-6 (9-7), 6-4 while Jan-Lennard Struff put out Australian Bernard Tomic 6-7 (6-8), 6-1, 6-4.