Former champion Maria Sharapova came safely through a testing first round encounter with Ukraine’s Viktoriya Kutusova as she won 7-5 6-4 on Court One on Monday.
The Russian superstar is playing only her fourth tournament since recovering from shoulder surgery last year and despite some shaky moments emerged unscathed. “It’s so wonderful after not playing tennis for such a long time,” she told BBC Sport. “To be on Court One at Wimbledon is unbelievable and I am so glad I pulled it out against a good opponent. “She is a very aggressive player and I was just trying to hold on. The shoulder is really good.” She was later joined in the second round by three-time champion Serena Williams, who beat Neuza Silva of Portugal 6-1 7-5. Williams overpowered the qualifier in the opening set, but was given a sterner test in the second set which looked heading for a tiebreaker until the American broke through in the 12th game. Former world number one Sharapova had her serve broken in the third and fifth games of the opening set, but Kutozova blew her chance to go 5-1 ahead and the number 24 seed hit back with two breaks of her own.
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Sharapova moved ahead at 6-5 and on her opponent’s next delivery engineered three set points, taking it at the third opportunity. Kuutsova continued to pose problems and she broke Sharapova at the start of the second set, only to lose her own service twice to trail 4-2. A rusty Sharapova proceeded to drop her own service but her 20-year old opponent could not take advantage after she double faulted for the fifth time to trail 5-3. Sharapova was again broken as she served for the match but she forced the unseeded Kutuzova into more errors in the next game to close out victory.