SHENZHEN, China - Maria Sharapova rang in the New Year with a decisive victory over an in-form Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-3, 6-0, at the Shenzhen Open.
"It's quite remarkable to see a full stadium for a first round," Sharapova said during her on-court interview. "It's my first time here, so I didn't know what to expect!"
Sharapova made the best of her Shenzhen debut on Monday, striking 18 winners to 20 unforced errors to outlast the Romanian veteran after one hour and 22 minutes on court.
"Every match gets tougher and as a competitor and someone who tries to be realistic, I like to only look ahead to the next opponent."
Buzarnescu won a whopping 70 matches last year, making her Grand Slam main draw debut at the US Open and finishing the season at a career-high rank of No.55. The pair battled through a tense opening set, with the turning point coming in the eighth game, when Sharapova broke for 5-3 and never looked back.
"It's nice to get a win on the first day of the year; that was obviously the goal," she continued after the match. "I had an opponent who'd had a lot of matches in the last few months and played extremely well. I thought there were a few breaks here and there in the match, but overall I'm happy with how I followed through."
Up next for the five-time Grand Slam champion is 2017 runner-up Alison Riske, who upset No.5 seed Wang Qiang on Sunday.
"She beat a crowd favorite yesterday, so I know I have a tough match ahead, but I just want to keep playing better, and keep improving no matter who is across the net."