Sharapova triumphs in Tianjin opener

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Maria Sharapova of Russia hits a return against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania during their women’s singles first round match at the Tianjin Open tennis tournament in Tianjin on October 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STR / China OUT

Maria Sharapova made an impressive start to the Tianjin Open on Wednesday, beating Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets.

Seeded ninth, Begu loomed as a tricky first-round opponent for Sharapova, but the former world number one from Russia swept to a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Currently ranked 86th after returning from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova — granted a wildcard in Tianjin — plays unseeded Magda Linette of Poland next.

The 30-year-old Sharapova, who returned to tennis in April after serving a suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium, has yet to win a tournament since then.

The five-time Grand Slam winner exited the China Open last week in the third round at the hands of Romania’s Simona Halep, the newly crowned world number one.

But Sharapova had no such trouble against Begu, seeing off the 57th-ranked Romanian in 82 minutes.

The opening matches of the Tianjin Open have been badly disrupted because of rain.

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