Maria Sharapova won a three-set marathon against Agnieszka Radwanska as she shrugged off injury concerns and laid down a significant marker at the WTA Finals on Sunday.
The Russian had not completed a match since the Wimbledon semi-finals after leg and forearm problems but she overcame some rusty play to win 4-6 6-3 6-4 in two hours 47 minutes.
It could prove a useful work-out for the world number three as she bids to recover the title she won aged 17 on debut in 2004. Top-ranked Serena Williams has opted not to defend her title.
Last year’s runner-up Simona Halep earlier destroyed Flavia Pennetta 6-0 6-3 to also get off the mark in the Red Group round robin, with matches to come against Sharapova and Radwanska.
“Matches like this, I think they take a few years out of your life. God knows what is happening with my hair. I think I lost half of it. It’s like I don’t even want it open this bun up because it’s just a disaster,” Sharapova said.
“But you know what? I’m happy I got through. Yeah, I’m going to feel it tomorrow and I’m going to be a little bit tired, but, hey, that’s the game. I’m proud that I was able to get through.”
Shot-making Radwanska edged Sharapova in the first set as she gained the only break in the ninth game and calmly served it out — before the Russian caught a verbal volley from her coach.
The strict instructions to be more aggressive did the trick as Sharapova broke twice in the second set and buried the first set point with a thumping forehand to level the match.
The Russian was cruising as she grabbed a double break in the third set, but she was then broken as she served for the match and double-faulted on match point in her next service game.
However, an ace immediately brought up another match point and a delighted Sharapova tasted victory for the first time in nearly four months as Radwanska put a forehand into the net.
Earlier Romanian top seed Halep beat Pennetta convincingly to gain some measure of revenge for her defeat to the Italian in the US Open semi-finals.
World No.2 Halep also showed no signs of the left Achilles tendon injury that forced her to retire at this month’s China Open as she dominated the opening match in Singapore.
Halep, 24, shocked Serena Williams en route to last year’s final and is seeded top after the world No.1 opted out of the eight-player showdown in order to rest.