2014 Mutua Madrid Open champion Maria Sharapova overcame a slow start to outlast an in-form Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to advance in three sets.
WTA Staff

MADRID, Spain - Maria Sharapova withstood an impressive charge from Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, one of the most consistent forces in 2017, to pull off a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 comeback victory over the No.17 seed to reach the second round at the Mutua Madrid Open.

The 2014 champion was playing just her second tournament of the season, and was made to fight from the start against Lucic-Baroni, an Australian Open semifinalist and Miami Open quarterfinalist in what has been her year on tour.

“I'm not quite sure how to describe the match because it feels like it happened so fast,” she said after the match. “I thought she played really well. I was playing against, like, a human slingshot for a while there. Balls were coming so fast and deep that, for a couple of sets, I don't believe we had too many rallies over three balls.

“You know, she goes for it. You have to be patient. Sometimes there's not much you can do. Those are great shots, on the line. I mean, the breakpoints, I missed a couple of second-serve returns. That was obviously an error from my side.

“But she came up with some great winners. Just got to hand it to her.”

Lucic-Baroni began the match with 15 winners to take the opening set, only to see Sharapova survive a 17-minute service game in the second to turn the tide and stave off the Croat after two hours and 12 minutes on court.

“You know, I wasn't really happy with my percentage of serve in the first couple of sets. I definitely improved that in the third. I think that really helped me. I got a better read on her serve, as well.”

In all, both maintained positive winner/unforced error differentials as the Russian struck 16 winners to 10 errors while Lucic-Baroni displayed trademark aggression with 41 winners to 34 unforced; Sharapova's seven breaks of serve ultimately made the difference with just 10 points separating the two.

Up next for the former World No.1 is 2014 Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard, who won her first WTA main draw match since January on Saturday, dispatching Alizé Cornet in three sets.

“I think in terms of a game style, there's a little bit of similarities to who I played today: very aggressive, inside the court, takes the ball on the rise, doesn't give you much time. All the things that hopefully I can improve from today's match and take it against her.”