Madrid (AFP) – Maria Sharapova won for the first time since the Australian Open as she beat Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-4, 6-1, on Sunday in the Madrid Open.
The Russian five-time Grand Slam champion has been struggling with an arm injury, losing her last four matches, crashing out in the first round in Stuttgart last week.
In-form Romanian Buzarnescu reached the Prague Open final last week, but unseeded Sharapova, who took the title in Madrid in 2014, dominated this first round meeting.
Sharapova jumped to a 5-2 lead in the first set but Buzarnescu briefly showed some resistance by winning the next two games.
The Russian seized the momentum by breaking again to clinch the set and dropped only one more game as she won in 82 minutes to set up a second-round match with another Romanian, Irina-Camelia Begu, who upset No.5 seed Jelena Ostapenko the evening before.
In another Romanian-Russian clash top seed Simona Halep crushed Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-0, for a 13th straight victory in the tournament.
“I think it was a great match. I played really well. Of course, maybe she didn’t play her best, but she’s always tough to play against,” Halep said.
Halep has been having fitness issues with her legs and lost to CoCo Vandeweghe in the second round on the Stuttgart clay last week.
“I don’t have problems any more. I had a lot of treatment. I took care of my leg,” Halep said. “It was actually coming from the back. I always have little issues with my back, so I know how to treat it.”
A third Romanian, Sorana Cirstea also reached the second round by beating Czech Katerina Siniakova, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
“All the girls from Romania are really strong. They train a lot. They play really well, if they are confident,” Halep said.
There was a mild upset in the men’s tournament, where unseeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet knocked out Czech 14th seed Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-2.
Canadian Denis Shapovalov joined Gasquet in the second round after seeing off American Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-4.