CINCINNATI – Maria Sharapova overpowered Alison Riske 6-3 7-6(4) at the Cincinnati Masters on Monday to set up a tantalising second-round battle with world number two Ash Barty, who defeated the Russian at this year's Australian Open.
Sharapova struggled at times with her accuracy but unleashed some massive serves and played stout defence at key moments on her return to the tournament after a five year absence.
Fellow tournament wild card Riske looked poised to send the match to a third set when she was serving on 5-3 and 15-0 in the second set but Sharapova upped her game to force a tiebreaker.
Former world number one and five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova prevailed on her fourth match point to set up the meeting with top seeded Barty.
Barty defeated Sharapova in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January and both will be looking to sharpen their games ahead of the U.S. Open later this month.