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Maria Sharapova's comeback gathers pace as she secures place in Wimbledon qualifiers

Maria Sharapova's comeback gathers pace as she secures place in Wimbledon qualifiers”

Maria Sharapova has secured her place in Wimbledon qualifying after beating Christina McHale in the second round of the Italian Open.

A three-time champion in Rome, Sharapova is still rediscovering her form after returning to the WTA Tour last month following a 15-month ban.

And that is enough to earn Sharapova direct entry into Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton, while she could still earn a place in the main draw if she reaches the semi-finals in Rome this week.

"To try to win Roland Garros, you don't need to be No 4 or No 1 or No 5, what you need is to play tennis very well", Nadal said.

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Sharapova edged Lucic-Baroni in three tough sets in Madrid last week but then lost to Eugenie Bouchard, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the wild cards being handed out to Sharapova. "The fact that I'm back and playing three weeks in a row now and three events in a row for me is a big deal".

Monday's 6-4 6-2 win ensures Sharapova will move inside the top 200 and earn a Wimbledon qualifying place next month.

Maria Sharapova, of Russian Federation, returns the ball to Christina Mchale, of the United States, during the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Monday, May 15, 2017. In the ATP men's first round, ninth seed David Goffin beat Thomaz Bellucci 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4 and American Sam Querrey upset French 11th seed Lucas Pouille 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (10/8).

The 30-year-old raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set and had a series of break points in the fourth game, but American McHale held to reduce the deficit.

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The Italian Open organizers were criticized for giving a wild card to Sharapova instead of former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, an Italian. Also, Sam Querrey eliminated Lucas Pouille, a semifinalist past year, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (8).

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are already confirmed to play for Team Europe, with Tomas Berdych committing to play if qualified or selected. "I'm not really aware of that".

"Taking on the Europeans is no easy task".

"But we are putting together a bunch of players who I have no doubt will be the next generation of Grand Slam winners, and Milos is definitely up there as a contender".

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