Maria Sharapova and Li Na, who played an absolute nail-biter in the final last year, cruised through their opening matches at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Italian No.1 Sara Errani toughed it out.
Maria Sharapova won in her return to the Italian Open on Wednesday, serving up some very strong numbers to beat Garbine Muguruza in straight sets in her opening match.
The No.2-seeded Sharapova never faced a break point and lost just 10 points in eight service games - and broke the Spaniard's serve four times during the match - to score a 64-minute, 62 62 triumph.
"She is a rising player from Spain and is playing well, and the conditions were windy out there, but I was able to adjust and win this match," Sharapova said. "I knew going into the match I needed to be sharp and as quick as possible, and I did a few specific things well out there, and that's about it."
Sharapova is the two-time defending champion at the Italian Open, winning back-to-back titles here in 2011 and 2012 - and not counting her withdrawal in the semifinals the previous time she played the tournament in 2008, she has actually won her last 14 matches in a row at this event.
"This is a meaningful tournament for me," Sharapova said. "This is one of the tournaments I've won a couple of times, and I've also been playing here since I was really young. The crowds here are so enthusiastic and give me so much support, so it just feels great to be out on the court here."
Sharapova's victim in last year's final was also among the winners - No.5 seed Li Na, who was coming off a first round loss in Madrid last week, defeated fellow Chinese Zheng Jie in straights, 63 61.
"It's always tough to play someone from the same country - we were in the national team together, and we trained and practiced for a long time together," Li said. "It's like being twins on the tour, and it's tough to fight against each other on the court. But I was really happy I could beat her today."
Last year's final couldn't have been any closer, with Sharapova having to dig out of a 64 40 deficit and even save match point late in the third set to make it past Li in an absolute nail-biter, 4-6 6-4 7-6(5).
Friday (17 May) CEST Rome QUARTERFINALS12:00 -  Serena Williams (USA) V Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) CENTRALE14:00 - Simona Halep (ROU) Haide! V Jelena Jankovic (SRB) SUPERTENNIS ARENA16:00 -  Samantha Stosur (AUS) V  Victoria Azarenka SUPERTENNIS ARENA19:30 -  Sara Errani (ITA) V  Maria Sharapova (RUS) CENTRALE 1:30pm EDT US ДАВАЙ Маша!!!
Well, maria's withdrawal at least meant she didn't lose to she-man williams again.....or azarenka....#thirdbest sorry...