overcame a mid-match stumble to defeat Tathiana Garbin of Italy 6-1, 6-7(6-8), 6-3.
And in only her first tournament back, Sharapova was handed a major break as both of the top two seeded players; 10th ranked Caroline
Wazniacki of Denmark and 12th ranked Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland withdrew, both citing back injuries. Sharapova could have faced Wozniacki in round two.
The 22 year old Russian, although competing on her least favorite surface; claycourts, appeared at ease in set one as she executed overpowering groundstrokes to race to a one set lead.
After going ahead a break of serve in the second set and holding several matchpoints at 5-3, Sharapova suffered several doublefaults and unforced errors to drop the second set tiebreaker.
However in decisive set, the Russian found her game again after falling behind 1-3 as she mixed a net attack as well as a number of dropshots to complete her initial comeback victory, winning the final five games of the match.
Sharapova first enjoyed global success as a Wimbledon singles champion at age 17 after defeating the American Serena Williams in straight sets in the championship final. In the following years, Sharapova would take the US Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open title last year.
A championship win at tennis' fourth grand slam, the French Open which begins May 25th in Paris, would for Sharapova most likely come with a much greater degree of difficulty as the Russian has in the recent past described her movement on the slow claycourts as being like “a cow on ice.”
However Sharapova is one of only a handful of WTA Tour players who have for the past several years consistently brought enough power and tactics to the tennis courts to stay in matches versus Williams and her sister Venus Williams who have won the last three grand slams contested.
In July, the third ranked Venus Williams took her fifth overall and second consecutive Wimbledon singles title before the second ranked Serena Williams won the US Open in September and the Australian Open in January.
Sharapova is tied 3-3 in career head to head matches versus her fellow Russian and the current WTA Tour world number one Dinara Safina.
And although Sharapova has never lost to Safina on a grasscourt or hardcourt, when the two power hitters met in 2006 and last year at the French Open's round of sixteen, Safina scored three set upset wins on both occasions.