Former world number one Maria Sharapova.
Former world number one Maria Sharapova.

Former world number one Maria Sharapova made a winning comeback to the tour on Wednesday following her 15-month doping ban, beating Italian Roberta Vinci in straight sets in the first round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix.

Sharapova, the five-time Grand Slam champion, brushed off a nervous start to eventually claim a convincing win on her controversial comeback having tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

"It's the best feeling in the world to walk out (on court), it's been a stage of mine since I was a young girl and it was very special," said Sharapova who celebrated her win with a succession of double fist pumps and a broad smile before blowing kisses to all corners of the Porsche Arena.

Wild card

Sharapova has also received invitations to play in Madrid and Rome and will find out in May whether she will be given a wild card for the French Open.

Some players, including Vinci, have criticised the wild card awards, saying a doping offender should have to start from scratch and build up their ranking by playing in the lower tournaments again.

"I am not an individual that's angry or bitter. I let things go," she told a post-match news conference.

"I am being offered wild cards from tournament directors. I am not getting a wild card to receive a trophy or a gold platter. I still have to go through matches and win them."

She'll face fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the second round on Thursday.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies