Sharapova staying grounded after routine win
Tennis is beginning to feel like business as usual again for Maria Sharapova.
The former world number one defeated Tatjana Maria 6-1 6-4 yesterday in her first match at the Australian Open since the failed drugs test two years ago that rocked the sport.
The 30-year-old still finds herself being questioned about her 15-month absence but Sharapova is settling back into the routine of Grand Slam tennis.
She will now be looking to navigate a tricky draw in Melbourne and establish herself as one of the title contenders in a wide-open field.
She said: "I felt like I got a lot of things out of the way physically, emotionally and mentally last year. There were a lot of firsts again - playing the first tournament, first Grand Slam, and just different feelings and what it would be routinely.
"But it felt pretty routine today. I'm just really happy to be back here."
Sharapova found herself in the firing line of critics again on the eve of the tournament when she was invited to represent the women at the draw and carried the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup onto court.
Sharapova had no interest in responding to claims it was inappropriate, saying: "I was invited to be part of the draw by (tournament director) Craig Tiley and the tournament organisation, and I kindly accepted."
As for how far she can go in the tournament, she said: "I feel like I'm building. Some things are coming a little slower than I wanted. Some things I feel good about. I think confidence comes with time and with match play and putting yourself in situations where you're able to take those opportunities.
"I know that nothing will be handed to me or anyone. I'm not overly confident. I have expectations because of my previous results in my career and I know at what level I can play."
Sharapova will face Anastasija Sevastova in the second round and, if she makes it through that, 2016 champion Angelique Kerber looms.