Italian Open win allows Sharapova to qualify for Wimbledon

Monday's 6-4 6-2 win ensures Sharapova will move inside the top 200 and earn a Wimbledon qualifying place next month.

Sharapova faces a battle to raise her ranking enough to qualify for the grass court Grand Slam by right and spare organisers the dilemma of whether to award her a wildcard into the main draw.

Sharapova started anxiously against McHale but after falling an early break behind through copious errors turned the match around with a run of winning six consecutive games before a relatively sparse crowd.

Not that Sharapova herself realised the significance of her 6-4, 6-2 win against Christina McHale, of the USA.

Sharapova will learn on Tuesday if she will be granted a wild card for the French Open this month, with Roland Garros organizers planning an announcement on Facebook. Both players continued to struggle on their serves as there were yet another couple of service breaks, and Sharapova finally held her serve once more to earn the lead for the very first time in the match.

No.12 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova got her Rome campaign off to a grueling start, outlasting Samantha Stosur in a marathon three sets to charge into the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1.

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Stuttgart finalist Laura Siegemund made the last 16 with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-4 victory over 19-year-old Japanese star Naomi Osaka while fellow German Mona Barthel overcame Peng Shuai in three sets in the Rome heatwave.

Berdych matched his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, with 599 career victories.

The Russian, who is a three-time victor of this event, will take on Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the second round, who overcame the challenge of Lucie Safarova in three sets. "She played extremely well and aggressive, so I'm really happy I was still able to win".

The Russian broke McHale seven times on 14 opportunities and struck 21 winners to just seven for the American. Sam Querrey upset French 11th seed Lucas Pouille 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (10/8).

Still, there were signs of rustiness, like when Sharapova hit a first serve into the red clay before the net while attempting to close out the match.

  • Regina Holmes