Sharapova is a three-time champion in Rome

Maria Sharapova secured a place in Wimbledon qualifying – at the very least – with a first-round win over Christina McHale at the Italian Open.

The 30-year-old Russian is ranked 211 in the world and was given a wildcard in Rome as she continues her return from a 15-month drugs ban.

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

She will qualify for Wimbledon’s main draw if she reaches the Rome semis.

Sharapova will learn on Tuesday whether she has been given a wildcard into either qualifying or the main draw at the French Open, which gets under way on 28 May.

The five-time Grand Slam champion reached the semi-finals on her return to action in Stuttgart last month, but lost to Eugenie Bouchard in the second round in Madrid last week.

She made a slow start against American McHale, ranked 58th, at the Foro Italico, dropping serve three times before edging through the first set and dominating the second.

Sharapova will play Croatian 16th seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in round two, with world number one Angelique Kerber a potential third-round opponent.

Wimbledon’s qualifying tournament is played over three rounds and takes place from 26 to 29 June at the Bank of England Sports Grounds in Roehampton.

It has previously been an unticketed event but this year there will be 1,000 tickets for sale at £5 each, with proceeds going to the Wimbledon Foundation, along with video coverage of one court.

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