Maria Sharapova booked her place at next month’s Wimbledon qualifying event by beating Christina McHale in the first round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
The 30-year-old will move into the top 200 in the world rankings after seeing off American McHale 6-4 6-2 in one hour and 35 minutes on Monday.
And that is enough to earn Sharapova direct entry into Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton, while she could still earn a place in the main draw if she reaches the semi-finals in Rome this week.
Sharapova, playing at her third WTA Tour event since returning from a 15-month doping ban, found herself 3-1 down in the early stages against McHale but soon hit back, levelling the scores at 4-4 before winning the next two games to claim the first set.
The 2004 Wimbledon champion raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set and had a series of break points in the fourth game, but McHale held to reduce the deficit.
Sharapova won the next two games and although McHale broke back to make it 5-2, Sharapova took the next game to clinch victory.
The Russian, who is a three-time winner of this event, will take on Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the second round.
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