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TASS, August 1. /TASS/. Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova said she was extremely glad to be back playing on courts in the United States after a very long break, according to the official website of the Women Tennis Association (WTA).
On Monday, Sharapova played her first match at the WTA tennis tournament in Stanford, California, where she was invited with a wildcard. In her first round encounter Sharapova clinched the victory from home favorite Jennifer Brady edging the American in three sets 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 at the tennis court of the Stanford University.
"I feel like I just want to hug everyone and say thank you," the WTA website quoted Sharapova as saying. "It's my first match in the States in a really long time and it's the closest thing to home for me."
"The welcome has been incredible and finally playing so close to home was really special," said Sharapova, who made a comeback to the sport in April after 15-month suspension.
This was also the first game for Sharapova after she sustained a thigh injury earlier in the year and was forced to pull out from the tennis tournament in Italy. The Russian player praised the high level of her first round opponent Brady, who is currently enjoying her best season ever.
"I feel like I face a lot of things: not competing for a long time, an opponent who's able to play some great tennis - what a year she's had already!" Sharapova said.
Former world’s Number One Sharapova said her only goal at the moment is to simply keep playing as it helps her to get better. In the second round of the tournament in Stanford, which offers $800,000 in prize money and runs between July 31 and August 6, she is squared off against 7-seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.
"All that matters is that I keep playing," she said. "As long as I'm the one winning the last point, I get to play another match, and another. The more I play, the better I'll do. That's the goal."
After a 15-month long suspension for violating anti-doping regulations, Sharapova made her tour return in April at Stuttgart, reaching the semi-finals. She also participated in the Madrid Open where she lost in the second round, and retired injured from her second round match at the Rome Masters.
Last week Sharapova was granted a wildcard for the WTA tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio, set to be held on August 12-20. She is also scheduled to play at a tournament in China’s Tianjin between October 9 and 15.
Sharapova is Russia’s most decorated tennis player having won a total of five Grand Slam tournaments, namely the Australian Open in 2008, the French Open in 2012 and 2014, Wimbledon in 2004 and the US Open in 2006.
She also clinched the silver in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and was the 2008 Federations Cup champion.