Sharapova battles back after slow start Shenzhen Open

Shenzhen (China): World No.1 Simona Halep began the year in emphatic style with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Nicole Gibbs as Maria Sharapova also romped through her first-round match at the Shenzhen Open, here Monday.

It took Sharapova an hour and 22 minutes to dispatch Buzarnescu 6-3, 6-0 to get a ideal start to the New Year.

The 30-year-old Russian will face 2017 runner-up Alison Riske, who upset China's fifth seed Wang Qiang on Sunday.

"Although I would've wanted a quick and easy victory, these are the kind of matches that you need, especially with such a short preparation going into the Australian Open", Sharapova said. "Overall I thought, besides a few breaks in the beginning, I really stepped up and finished the match off well", Sharapova said.

"This match was a good example that I can play a good level of tennis, a high level of tennis", she said.

Twice a finalist at Shenzhen, Riske used power and precision to breeze through the first set and went up 2-1 in the second to leave Sharapova in trouble.

Jelena Ostapenko is out of the 2018 Shenzhen Open earlier than expected.

Unseeded Danka Kovinic, ranked No 123 in the world, stunned Greek seventh-seeded Maria Sakkari 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Local hope Zhang Shuai powered past Russia's Anna Blinkova 6-3 6-4 and was joined in the next round by Timea Babos who beat China's Wang Xiyu 6-1 6-1. Pliskova defeats Ostapenko in straight sets, winning 6-1, 6-4.

She then broke to love in the third game of the second, only for Sharapova to win five of the next six games, staving off four break points in the process, to take the contest to a third set.