Despite hitting zero aces and seven double faults, the No.4-seeded Sharapova held all eight of her service games - she never even faced a break point - to make it past the ultra-talented German, 61 64.
"The first matches are always tricky, especially having not played in a few weeks, indoor or outdoor," Sharapova said. "She's also a tricky opponent, and she's capable of playing good tennis. She hasn't been as consistent with her results as she probably would have liked to be recently, but she's had her results and she's beaten top players before, so it's never easy facing her in your first match."
Sharapova is the only player in the field with multiple BNP Paribas Open titles - she has two, in 2006 and 2013. How does the two-time champion - and defending champion - feel about playing this event?
"I have played really well here, and I obviously hope to continue that," she said. "You always start from scratch every year, but I always like to get here a little bit early and get used to the conditions. We are in a little bit of an altitude, not much, but the ball does fly somewhat in the first couple of days.
"Overall I feel like I did what I had to do, and I'll step it up for the next ones."
While Sharapova was cruising, some of her fellow seeds were getting picked off - most notably No.5 seed Angelique Kerber, who served for the match at 62 65 and was two points away from the win several times but ended up falling to inspired young Spaniard María-Teresa Torró-Flor, 26 76(5) 64.
Torró-Flor's win over the World No.6 wasn't just her first Top 10 win - it was her first Top 30 win.
Kerber wasn't the only seeded player getting sent out Saturday: Aleksandra Wozniak came back from a break down twice in the third set and 4-0 down in the ensuing third set tie-break to edge No.15 seed Sabine Lisicki in a nail-biter, 75 16 76(5); Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi surprised No.25 seed Sorana Cirstea, 76(3) 63, and Alisa Kleybanova overpowered the No.32 seed, Garbiñe Muguruza, 63 62.
No.23 seed Ekaterina Makarova almost joined them on the sidelines, saving a match point down 75 65 and eventually clawing past Monica Niculescu in a three-hour, 11-minute desert marathon, 57 76(3) 63.