Originally Published: January 15, 2018 11:40 p.m.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova barely missed a beat in her first match back at the Australian Open since a failed doping test in 2016 resulted in a 15-month ban from tennis.
One of just two former champions in the women’s draw, Sharapova recovered from an early break in the second set and closed out her 6-1, 6-4 victory over Tatjana Maria with an ace on Tuesday at Margaret Court Arena. She celebrated by twirling, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.
“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been back here — obviously I wanted to enjoy the moment,” the 2008 Australian Open champion and three-time runner-up said in an on-court TV interview. “It was really meaningful for me to be out here.”
Sharapova was banned for after testing positive for the drug meldonium here in 2016, when she reached the quarterfinals, and finished last year ranked No. 60.
The five-time major winner got vocal support from fans during and after her opening match.
“I’ve got shivers. It means a lot to me,” Sharapova said. “I cherish these moments, I love it.”
Sharapova could next meet No. 14-seeded Anastasija Sevastova, who beat her at the U.S. Open last year in her return to a Grand Slam to tournament.