Saint Petersburg - Russian star Maria Sharapova made a victorious debut at the WTA Saint Petersburg indoor tournament, beating Daria Gavrilova of Australia in straight sets on Monday.
The 31-year-old Sharapova prevailed 6-0, 6-4 in one hour 45 minutes to chalk up her third win in four head-to-head meetings with Russian-born Gavrilova.
The unseeded Sharapova was in command from the start on the hard court of Sibur Arena, breaking her rival's serve three times to take the opening set to love.
Gavrilova broke in the second, but Sharapova, who is ranked 29th in the world, replied by breaking twice and sealing her victory with a precise forehand drive.
"It was much harder than the scoreline indicates," Sharapova said. "It was a tough physical battle but I expected it as that's the way we've played all of our previous meetings."
In the last 16, five-time major winner Sharapova will meet third-seeded compatriot Daria Kasatkina, who enjoyed an opening-round bye.
"Daria has recently been in the top 10," said Sharapova. "Even though she lost early in Australia she is in good form and it will be hard to play against her. But I feel I'm ready."
Earlier on Monday, Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium saw off compatriot Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-4 to set up a meeting with fourth-seeded Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.
Meanwhile, Vera Zvonareva, the 2010 Wimbledon and US Open finalist, beat fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-4 in a battle of former top 10 players, who both appeared in the main draw courtesy of wildcards.
"The match was really tough, but I expected that," Zvonareva said.
Results from the Saint Petersburg WTA tournament on Monday:
Maria Sharapova (RUS) bt Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 6-0, 6-4
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) bt Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 6-3, 6-4
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) bt Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-2, 6-4