Maria Sharapova wins Stuttgart opener after serving doping ban

Maria Sharapova’s controversial return to competitive tennis was a winning one as she overcame Roberta Vinci 7-5 6-3 in the first round of the Stuttgart Open.

Maria Sharapova wins Stuttgart opener after serving doping ban

The former world number one was back in action at a tournament she has won three times courtesy of a wildcard just 24 hours after the end of her 15-month suspension for failing a drugs test.

Sharapova tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open and her original two-year ban was reduced on appeal. Not all her peers welcomed her return but Sharapova received a good reception when introduced to the crowd and subsequently walked out on court alongside her opponent in Germany.

It took the 30-year-old time to get into her stride but generally it looked like the same old Sharapova, with relentless aggression and heavy hitting off both the forehand and backhand sides.

Vinci, a finalist at the 2015 US Open, won the toss and chose to serve and she made a solid start, taking the opening game with the loss of just one point before breaking Sharapova’s first service game.

However, Sharapova broke back immediately. She needed five break points during a game lasting more than 10 minutes and displayed signs she was now getting her eye in by hitting a string of big winners.

Sharapova had another break point in the seventh game but Vinci battled to hold her serve before the Russian levelled things up at 4-4 with her second service game to love.

By contrast, Vinci had been taken to deuce in every service game since her opener and the inevitable break eventually came to earn Sharapova a 6-5 lead and she then served it out - taking it on her second set point.

Sharapova started the second set with another break of serve, winning her fourth game in a row, and the signs were looking ominous for Vinci, although she did manage three break points against the Sharapova serve in the next game - but could take none of them.

Vinci ended her barren run with a hold of serve and did so again in her next service game to remain on the coat-tails of Sharapova at 4-3.

However, after Sharapova had easily held her serve again, the Italian was broken to love and the former world number one will now play fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the second round.

Serena news ‘an accident’

Serena Williams admits she accidentally made her pregnancy public having learned she was expecting a baby two weeks before the Australian Open.

The world number one posted a picture on Snapchat last week showing off a small baby bump with the caption “20 weeks”.

It was taken down shortly afterwards, leading to several hours of confusion before the news was confirmed by Williams’ publicist.

Speaking at TED2017, the 35-year-old said : “I was on vacation, taking time for myself, and I have this thing where I’ve been checking my status and taking a picture every week.

“I’ve been just saving it, but you know how social media is - you press the wrong button and... My phone doesn’t ring that much, and 30 minutes later, I’d missed four calls. So I picked it up and realised, ‘Oh no’.”

Williams was eight weeks pregnant when she won her 23rd grand slam singles title in.

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