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Sharapova Makes Winning Return in Warsaw

Maria Sharapova made a winning return to action in Warsaw, after nine months out of action.

Published May 18, 2009 12:00

Sharapova Makes Winning Return in Warsaw
Maria Sharapova

WARSAW, Poland - Although there were certainly some hitches for her, Russia's Maria Sharapova made a winning return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour at the Warsaw Open on Monday, beating Tathiana Garbin in her first match in nine months.

Sharapova, who last played a singles match at the Rogers Cup in Montréal last August and is ranked No.126 in the world this week due to her inactivity, proved her ranking is untelling as she beat the world No.68 in three sets, 61 67(6) 63. But it could have been far more straightforward, as the Russian built a 61 52 lead and held six match points later in the second set - four at 5-3, two more in the tie-break - before closing it out in the third, where she was forced to rally from 3-1 down.

"I should have finished the match in the second set but after nine months it's never easy. I stayed in the match and it worked out in the end," Sharapova said. "My shoulder is fine. It didn't give me any problems during the match."

Sharapova added she is thrilled to finally be back on the court competing: "I've had a lot of time to think about what I've accomplished and what I still want to do. There are so many more things I want to achieve, more Grand Slams, and for now I have lots of motivation left and am determined to compete. But this week my focus is on this tournament. I'm not thinking about Roland Garros yet, or what will be happening in a week or a month from now. I'm just happy to be back finally. I'm just focusing on playing one match at a time."

Zheng Jie, seeded No.3 but the highest seed remaining after the withdrawals of No.1 and No.2 seeds Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, who were both suffering from low back injuries, was nearly bounced in her opener, rallying from 3-1 down in the third set to beat Olga Govortsova, 46 76(0) 63.

Zheng made a national ranking breakthrough on Monday, rising from No.16 to No.15 - the first Chinese ever to reach the Top 15, bettering Li Na's high of No.16.

"This is a very happy moment for me. I still remember that I was in the 200s not too long ago," Zheng commented Monday. "I have to thank Wimbledon for the wildcard last year. Getting to the semifinals there gave me a lot of confidence. I want to thank my husband, my team and my family for their support."

The 25-year-old said she doesn't want to stop there: "Being ranked No.15 is a new start for me. I hope to get even better. I don't look at it as me being the first Chinese player; I'm just trying to play my best tennis and enjoy every match."

The news wasn't so great for the rest of the seeds, as No.4 seed Aleksandra Wozniak lost to Julia Goerges, 76(5) 63; No.7 seed Bethanie Mattek-Sands lost to Anne Keothavong, 62 76(4); and No.9 seed Tsvetana Pironkova lost to Marta Domachowska, 75 62. No.8 seed Alona Bondarenko was the only seed to join Zheng in the winners' column, crushing wildcard Katarzyna Piter, 60 60.

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