Maria Sharapova solidified her comeback to tennis on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) as the former No.1 overcame a slow start to win her opening match at the Rome Masters, beating Christina McHale 6-4, 6-2.
If Sharapova fails to reach the semi-finals in Rome, the Wimbledon Championships wildcard committee, which meets on June 20, would have to decide whether to fast-track her into the main draw or place her in the qualifying draw.
Should the 30-year-old three-times 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.
The five-time Grand Slam victor will play the second round against Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who defeated Czech Lucie Safarova earlier on Monday. 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.
Ninth seed Venus Williams, who won the title in 1999 and was the beaten finalist a year earlier, booked her place in the second round with a 6-4 7-6 (7/4) triumph over Yaroslava Shvedova. "I'll focus on my match, I'm playing tomorrow", Sharapova said; "But nothing is a disappointment after being away from the game for 15 months".
Striking three times the amount of winners as her American opponent (21-7), Sharapova earned herself a total of 14 break points in the match and converted on seven.More news: Oil prices climb on hopes output cuts will be extended
Berdych matched his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, with 599 career victories.
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. Only 24 players have earned 600 or more wins. But fans cheered and held up signs of encouragement for Sharapova, a three-time Rome champion.
The Italian reporter had asked her how her third tournament back from suspension was going.
"I feel like every match or every day I learn a little bit more and things are coming back to me about the way that I feel and the way I get ready for a match and my habits on match days and those things", Sharapova said.