Sharapova wins Auckland opener
Maria Sharapova, making her first appearance in New Zealand, overcame a nervous start to beat Alberta Brianti 6-2 6-3 in the Auckland Classic.
Sharapova underlined her pulling power with organisers confirming they had sold out all of the day sessions for the entire tournament just minutes before she stepped on court for her first round match.
A limited number of tickets for the three night sessions were left available, though all of Sharapova's matches will be played during the day and organisers said it was the first time the tournament, with a total prize pool of just $220,000, had been effectively sold out by the first day.
Sharapova received an enormous cheer from the 3,200 fans packed around the revamped centre court.
The 23-year-old Russian's original first round opponent Carla Suarez Navarro was changed after fifth-seeded Latvian Anastasija Sevastova withdrew with illness, making the Spaniard the eighth seed.
Italy's Brianti, who had earlier lost to Britain's Heather Watson 6-2 6-2 in qualifying, was then promoted to the main draw.