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'The best feeling in the world' as Sharapova makes winning return following 15-month ban

The former world number one beat Roberta Vinci in straight sets at the Stuttgart Open.

Sharapova celebrates her win.
Sharapova celebrates her win.
Image: DPA/PA Images

MARIA SHARAPOVA MADE a winning return as she took centre court for the first time this afternoon following a 15-month doping ban.

The former world number one and five-time Grand Slam winner beat Italian veteran Roberta Vinci 7-5, 6-3 in Stuttgart.

She now advances to the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix second round, and plays fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova tomorrow.

It took Sharapova some time to get into her stride, but generally she can count her returning performance a positive one.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” she told the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) afterwards. “This has been a stage of mine since I was a young girl, and to know that I’d be walking back on it was really special.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.”

It came as her first match since a quarter-final loss to rival Serena Williams at the 2016 Australian open.

Weeks after, it was announced that the Russian tested positive for meldonium. The initial two-year suspension was cut to 15 months.

Her return has not been welcomed by all, but Sharapova received a warm reception as she took to the court earlier.

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