Maria Sharapova dug out of a hefty second set hole to close Japanese No.1 Kurumi Nara out in straight sets in the first match of her Sony Open Tennis quest.
WTA Staff

MIAMI, FL, USA - Maria Sharapova won a tough two-setter against recent first-time WTA champion Kurumi Nara in her opening match at the Premier Mandatory-level Sony Open Tennis on Thursday.

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The No.4-seeded Sharapova had to battle back from 1-3, 0-30 down in a marathon 64-minute second set to record a 63 64 victory against Nara, who won her first WTA title a few weeks ago in Rio.

"She made me work extremely hard," Sharapova said. "She's a really quick opponent, got a lot of balls back, as you saw, and she made me hit a lot. She made me try to do too much in certain situations.

"Sometimes I felt like I was doing the right mistakes and sometimes I felt like I should have been more patient, but I guess those are the situations you want to build that match confidence again."

Sharapova is coming off one of her tougher losses - a third round loss at Indian Wells, where she was the defending champion, and Camila Giorgi - the woman who beat her - was a qualifier in the draw.

The four-time Grand Slam champion and former No.1 was asked where her confidence is right now.

"I still feel like a work in progress," Sharapova commented. "That match strength, when you're deep into the match and just in the later stages of matches, I think that's the thing that's hurt me in these last couple of months. But I've got to work through that. Nothing's just going to come to me.

"It's a challenge I have ahead of me, and I have to face it."

Next up for Sharapova is No.26 seed Lucie Safarova, who closed Vania King out in two, 63 76(2).

Sharapova leads Safarova in their head-to-head, 2-1, and has won their last two meetings.

Other winners included No.8 seed Petra Kvitova, No.9 seed Sara Errani, No.14 seed Sabine Lisicki, No.16 seed Sam Stosur, No.19 seed Kirsten Flipkens and No.23 seed Ekaterina Makarova.

Two more seeds got picked off by qualifiers, with CoCo Vandeweghe outdoing No.21 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 76(7) 75, and Donna Vekic beating No.28 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 76(5) 75.

"I'm so happy with my win today," Vekic said afterwards. "It was a very tough match today and the conditions were tough too, and she played a great match, so I'm so, so happy to have won that one.

"I've played four days in a row now and I'm really looking forward to that day off tomorrow!"