TIANJIN, China -- Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova got off to a flying start at the Tianjin Open on Wednesday, as she raced past No.9 seed Irina-Camelia Begu in her opening match, by the score of 6-4, 6-2.
The former World No.1 had won both of her previous meetings with Begu in straight sets, and continued her head-to-head dominance of the Romanian in the first round in Tianjin, which finally began after rain washed out play on Tuesday.
Sharapova was thrilled to get the win after the delays. "It's been a long wait for everyone, it hasn't been easy," she told the press after her win. "I had a first practice outdoors, and then I think it rained for 70 hours straight, unfortunately for the players."
"The good thing about this tournament is it has indoors, it's pretty state-of-the-art, and I trained at the National Tennis Centre as well, which was very impressive," Sharapova continued. "So I was still able to maintain good practice sessions."
Sharapova played aggressively off of her forehand side throughout the match, as is her custom, and though that shot won her numerous points with some stunning winners, a not unsubstantial amount of unforced errors came off of that wing as well.
For example, a forehand unforced error by Sharapova gave Begu the first break point of the match at 3-3, and the Romanian was handed the break via a double fault. But powerful forehands by the Russian in the next game led to a break of the Begu serve, evening the set again at 4-4.
Begu faltered in her next service game as well, losing the last four points -- including two disastrously-timed double faults -- to hand a one-set lead to the Russian, after Sharapova crushed a service return for an untouched winner on her first set point.
Sharapova finished the first set winning 83 percent of her first serve points, and it seemed that she would race through the remainder of the match once she broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set, when a crosscourt forehand was returned outside the sidelines by Begu.
But the Russian had to survive a struggle in the very next game, where she double faulted twice in a row to give Begu what would turn out to be her only break point of the set. The Russian wild card recipient fended it off, and held for 3-0 after two deuces.
Sharapova held serve through to the end of the match, and though at times she struggled to get a handle on her service returns, she was able to come through when it counted, bludgeoning back a Begu serve with a forehand down the line to seal the match in one hour and 22 minutes.
Sharapova advances to the second round, where she will face Magda Linette of Poland, who outlasted Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. But win or lose, Sharapova is already enjoying her debut appearance in Tianjin.
"It's always nice to visit a new place and play in a new stadium," Sharapova said after the match. "I enjoy the intimacy, I think it's a nice change. As a professional tennis player, you play most of the time playing in big arenas, and these smaller venues are very intimate and it's a really good feeling."