Sharapova on course for Wimbledon after opening win in Rome

Solenn Plantier
Mai 16, 2017

Maria Sharapova has secured her place in Wimbledon's qualifying tournament after a first-round victory over American Christina McHale at the Italian Open.

That would be a compromise allowing her to compete - as she is clearly good enough to make it through three preliminary rounds - while not giving a full helping hand to someone coming back from a 15-month doping suspension.

She faces a battle to raise her ranking sufficiently to qualify for July's grasscourt Grand Slam in London, sparing organisers the dilemma of whether to award her a wild card into the main draw of the tournament she won in 2004.

On early Tuesday evening the French Tennis Federation (FFT) will announce their decision about whether or not to grant her any sort of wildcard into the forthcoming French Open.

She made a slow start against American McHale, ranked 58th, at the Foro Italico, dropping serve three times before edging through the first set and dominating the second.

She started her campaign with a 6-4, 6-2 first-round win over Christina McHale.

And if she progresses to the semi-finals at the Italian Open that would likely confirm her qualification to the main draw at the All England Club. But fans cheered and held up signs of encouragement for Sharapova, a three-time Rome champion. Elsewhere, Russian Darya Kasatkina put out 14th seed Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-3 and 16th seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni overhauled Lucie Safarova 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6).

The former No 1, whose ranking has recovered into the 200s after a Stuttgart semi-final and a second round last week in Madrid, overcame seven double-faults for a victory on the clay in 90 minutes.

Sharapova led 21-7 in winners and committed 22 unforced errors to McHale's 25.

In men's action, David Goffin rallied past qualifier Thomaz Bellucci 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, and Tomas Berdych required five set points to close out the opening set in a 7-6 (7), 6-4 win over Australian Open quarterfinalist Mischa Zverev.

Also, Sam Querrey eliminated Lucas Pouille, a semifinalist previous year, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (8).

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