Maria Sharapova is already competing in her third tournament since returning from her 15 month ban and the Russian is set to take on Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the second round of the Italian Open. The former world no.1 had a decent start since returning to the tennis court having reached semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open and the second round of the Madrid Open.
Her opponent Lucic-Baroni has had a decent tennis season so far with the highlight of her 2017 being a semi-final loss to Serena Williams at the Australian Open. She also reached the semi-finals of the Mexican Open and Charleston Open and suffered a quarter-final exit at the Indian Wells.
The Croatian has been really impressive, but a cause for concern for her will be the fact that she already lost to Sharapova this year at the Madrid Open.
There is no doubt that Sharapova will be the favourite to advance to the next round of the Italian Open when she comes up against Lucic-Baroni later today. The Russian eased past American Christina McHale 6-4, 6-2 to progress to the next round as she looks to win her fourth title at the Italian Open.
Despite that comfortable win against McHale one could tell Sharapova is still not back to her best. She recovered from a break down three times in the opening set and hit 14 more winners to win her sixth successive Italian Open match.
"At this point, it's week-to-week. I certainly have expectations of myself. When you've accomplished things and you've won big events and you've been No.1 in the world, you know that feeling. You know how good it feels and you know what you work for, so I would love to experience those moments again," Livetennis.com quoted Sharapova as saying.
"Every week is important and I treat every match...I might've not played my best tennis but I set up an opportunity to play another match, and hopefully improve in that match, and that's what I need."
Lucic-Baroni is certainly expected to be one of Sharapova's tougher opponents she has faced since returning to the tennis court. She had to fight hard to win her first round match against Lucie Safarova. After winning the first set 7-5, she ended up losing the second set 6-4 but bounced back to win the third 6-3.
Sharapova and Lucic-Baroni have met on two occasions prior to their match tonight with Sharapova winning one of those matches recently at the Madrid Open. Their other encounter was at the French Open in 2011 which Lucic-Baroni won quite easily as she defeated Sharapova 6-3, 6-0.
Where to watch
The Italian Open match between Maria Sharapova and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is set to start tentatively at 7.30 pm local time, 11 pm IST and 6.30 pm BST.
TV and live streaming information
India: TV: Ten 3. Live Streaming: Sony Liv.
USA: TV: Tennis Channel. Live Streaming: Tennis Channel Live.
UK: TV: Sky Sports 5. Live streaming: Sky Go.
Global live stream: Live tennis.