Maria Sharapova secures place at Wimbledon qualifying event after beating Christina McHale
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.
Belfast Telegraph Digital