Shenzhen, December 31: Maria Sharapova started her season with a straight-sets win over Timea Bacsinszky at the Shenzhen Open, where top seed Aryna Sabalenka was made to work for a place in the second round.
Former world number one Sharapova hit 23 winners and broke six times in a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) victory on Monday.
The five-time grand slam champion got off to a slow start as Swiss Bacsinszky took a 2-0 lead, only for Sharapova to win six games in a row to take the first set.
Fifth seed Sharapova failed to consolidate a break on three occasions in the second set, but came out on top in the tie-break to set up a meeting with 17-year-old wildcard Wang Xinyu, a winner against Xun Fang Ying.
Sabalenka needed three sets to overcome Tatjana Maria, beating the German 3-6 6-3 6-1.
Second seed Caroline Garcia suffered a surprise 6-4 6-2 loss to Ivana Jorovic, while third seed Wang Qiang and seventh seed Zhang Shuai were also beaten by Alison Riske and Ons Jabeur respectively.
Ekaterina Alexandrova and Veronika Kudermetova each ended 2018 with victories in Monday's other contests.