Former women’s tennis world No 1 Maria Sharapova has made a winning comeback to the WTA tour following her 15-month ban for doping, beating Italian Roberta Vinci in straight sets in the first round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix. However, her return continues to be a controversial one, with fellow players criticising the decision to quickly embrace Sharapova.

The 30-year-old Russian, a three-time winner on Stuttgart’s clay courts, received a controversial wild card for the German tournament, having had no ranking points after more than a year out following her suspension for banned substances.

She had a nervous start in front of a supportive crowd on Wednesday but quickly found her strokes and her trademark shrieks to power past the world No 36 7-5 6-3 and set up a second-round clash against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

“It’s the best feeling in the world. To know I would be walking back into the arena was very special,” Sharapova said in a courtside interview.


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