Tennis: Still seeking first title since return, Maria Sharapova triumphs in Tianjin opener

Maria Sharapova hits a return against Irina-Camelia Begu during their women's singles first round match at the Tianjin Open tennis tournament in Tianjin on Oct 11, 2017.
Maria Sharapova hits a return against Irina-Camelia Begu during their women's singles first round match at the Tianjin Open tennis tournament in Tianjin on Oct 11, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

TIANJIN, China (AFP) - Maria Sharapova made an impressive start to the WTA Tianjin Open on Wednesday, beating Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets.

Seeded ninth, Begu loomed as a tricky first-round opponent for Sharapova, but the former world No. 1 from Russia swept to a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Ranked 86th after recently returning from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova was granted a wild card to play in the event.

The 30-year-old, who returned to tennis in April after serving a suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium, has yet to win a tournament since.

The five-time Grand Slam winner exited the China Open last week in the third round at the hands of Romania's Simona Halep, who on Monday became the world No. 1.

But Sharapova had no such trouble against Begu, seeing off the world No. 57 in 82 minutes.

She will next play the unseeded Magda Linette of Poland, who beat Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

The opening matches of the Tianjin Open have been badly disrupted because of rain.