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Sharapova overcomes shaky start to beat McHale in Rome

20 May 2017

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.

Sharapova, who has now played in three tournaments since returning from her 15-month doping ban last month, will learn on Tuesday if she will be granted a wild card for the French Open, which begins May 28.

The Russian ace sealed a 6-4 6-2 triumph on Monday to advance to the second round, meaning she will rise from her current ranking of 211 to inside the top 200, earning a spot in qualifying at the All England Club.

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Should the 30-year-old three-time Rome champion, ranked 211 in the world, reach the semi-finals, she would nearly certainly earn an automatic Wimbledon main draw slot ahead of the May 22 rankings cut-off date.

Also, David Goffin rallied past qualifier Thomaz Bellucci 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, and Tomas Berdych required five set points to close out the opening set in a 7-6 (7), 6-4 win over Australian Open quarterfinalist Mischa Zverev.

The former number one, whose ranking has recovered into the 200s after a Stuttgart semi-final and a second round last week in Madrid, overcame seven double-faults in victory on the clay in 90 minutes. She may receive a main draw wild card but many believe that it is more likely that she will be given a wild card into the qualifying draw. The fact that Im back and playing three weeks in a row now and three events in a row for me is a big deal.

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Mirjana Lucic-Baroni beat former French Open finalist Lucie Safarova 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, and if Sharapova wins this tie, she could face top-ranked Angelique Kerber in the third round.

Sharapova mentioned in her post-match media conference about her chances to make a Wimbledon return.

Having levelled it up with a pinpoint backhand, Sharapova started to get her serve going in a hold to 15 that featured some characteristically aggressive shot-making, before breaking once more for a one-set lead. Sam Querrey upset French 11th seed Lucas Pouille 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (10/8).

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Her second-round opponent will be Croatian veteran Lucic-Baroni who she beat in the Madrid first round last week. Coming from a break down thrice in this set, the Russian was very lucky to have gotten away with the victory of the first set. But as I said, every week is important.

Sharapova overcomes shaky start to beat McHale in Rome