Sharapova Returns To Action at Indian Wells

Maria Sharapova made her long-awaited comeback to the Tour in doubles while the first round wrapped up in singles.

Published March 12, 2009 12:00

Sharapova Returns To Action at Indian Wells
Maria Sharapova

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - The first round of the BNP Paribas Open came to a close on Thursday, with another slew of Top 50 stars setting up second round match-ups with seeded players at the $4.5-million event.

Australia's Samantha Stosur, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and Czech Lucie Safarova, ranked No.41, No.42 and No.48 in the world, respectively, all won their openers. Stosur beat Francesca Schiavone, 61 64; Pavlyuchenkova defeated Marta Domachowska, 61 63; and Safarova routed wildcard Melanie Oudin, 63 61.

Other winners were Vera Dushevina, Edina Gallovits, Roberta Vinci, Tamira Paszek, Yanina Wickmayer, Nuria Llagostera Vives, Karin Knapp, qualifiers Petra Cetkovska, Kristina Barrois, Anastasiya Yakimova and Angela Haynes and wildcard Sania Mirza. Gallovits and Mirza both pulled off comeback wins, the Romanian rallying from 63 42 down to beat Maria Kirilenko, 36 75 75, and India's Mirza coming back from 62 31 down to dispatch Mariya Koryttseva, 26 63 62.

In the night match, world No.39 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who was a few spots out of being seeded, beat Tathiana Garbin, 64 64, the last one into the second round.

"It was really great playing on stadium and I like playing night matches," said Mattek-Sands, who was playing her first match of the season, having sat out the first few months with a hip injury. "It was my first match since November, and I was still getting the rust out of some of my shots. Also, Tathiana hits a heavy shot so I had to get used to that. But I thought I improved as the match went on."

With all seeds receiving first round byes, every Thursday winner will play a seed in the second round on Saturday. Pavlyuchenkova will take on No.2 seed Jelena Jankovic while Cetkovska will face No.3 seed Elena Dementieva; Yakimova will face No.5 seed Ana Ivanovic and Stosur has No.7 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

The top half of the draw, which includes No.1 seed Dinara Safina and No.4 seed Vera Zvonareva, will play their second round matches on Friday.

Many eyes on Thursday were on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour comeback of Maria Sharapova, who played her first match of any kind since last August in doubles with countrywoman Elena Vesnina. A wildcard team into the draw, the Russians came back from a first set blowout and eventually led 7-4 in the match tie-break before falling to Ekaterina Makarova and Tatiana Poutchek, 61 46 107.

"It's really good to be back. It seems like forever ago I last played," Sharapova said. "There are so many things I've missed about playing - the preparation for the match, going on the court and playing... I started training a couple of months ago. It has been difficult. Right now I'm still working up to being 100 percent again."

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