Maria Sharapova beat Germany's Julia Goerges in straight sets in the second round of the Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Saturday. - EPA
INDIAN WELLS (US) AFP: Russian Maria Sharapova made a strong start to her Indian Wells WTA title defence on Saturday with a 6-1, 6-4, victory over Julia Goerges.
Sharapova, seeded fourth, needed just 66 minutes to get past the unseeded German on the Stadium Court of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Although she had seven double-faults, she didn't face a break point as she advanced her bid to add a third title in the California desert to go with those she won last year and in 2006.
The former world number one and four-time Grand Slam champion's 2013 campaign was cut short in August by a shoulder injury that ruled her out of the US Open.
Currently ranked fifth in the world, Sharapova is playing her fourth tournament of the year but has yet to reach a final. She took a break from tennis in February to attend the Sochi Winter Olympics, where she was a torchbearer and worked for US broadcaster NBC.
"The first matches are always a little bit tricky, especially having not played in a few weeks indoor or outdoor," she said. "Tricky opponent, and she's capable of playing good tennis. She hasn't been as consistent as she probably would have liked recently, but she's had her results.
"I thought I did what I had to do," Sharapova said.
Sharapova next faces Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi, a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 winner over 25th-seeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea.