Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova will square off with top seed Ashleigh Barty in the second round of Cincinnati after defeating fellow wild card Alison Riske, 6-3, 7-6 (4), to open the night session Monday at the Western & Southern Open.
Though she failed to serve out the match at 6-5 in the second set, Sharapova was the steadier of the two in the tiebreaker, clinching the victory in one hour and 56 minutes when Riske’s forehand caught the net. The Russian improved to 4-0 against Riske and notched her first victory at the tournament in five years, when she reached the semifinals.
After missing nearly six months due to a right shoulder injury, Sharapova returned to win her first match back before suffering a three-match losing streak. Now ranked No. 97, the last time she posted back-to-back victories was at the Australian Open. There, she advanced to the round of 16, before being upstaged by Barty in three sets. Sharapova won their other encounter last year on clay in Rome, also a three-set contest.
Ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka, Greece’s Maria Sakkari and qualifier Iga Swiatek, all in Barty’s quarter, also advanced in first-round action Monday.