- Maria Sharapova cruised into the third round of the Pan Pacific Open, Japan
- She beat Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn in straight sets
- Last year Sharapova was knocked out in the first round
- She has since risen to number two in the world
Maria Sharapova beat Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand in straight sets 6-2, 7-5 to cruise into the third round of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
The 24-year-old fired seven aces, including one on match point, to brush aside Tanasugarn and help banish the memories of her early exit from last year's tournament.
That defeat, at the hands of the 41-year-old Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm in the first round, proved to be something of a nadir for the Russian.
But since then Sharapova has risen to number two on the world rankings from a career low 126 following shoulder surgery in 2009 and regained some of her early-career form.
And she began strongly in Tokyo, quickly winning the first set before going 3-0 up in the second.
Tanasugarn then came to life, leveling the second set 5-5 before Sharapova finished out the match in style.
"I served really well today. I had a good percentage and a few aces. It is definitely important for me to serve well because she reads the ball very well," Sharapova told AFP.
"I played really a good match. I had a little bit of let-down in the second set. She started playing very well. It was much tougher in the second set, but I got it in two sets."
Sharapova's victor last year - the evergreen Date-Krumm - suffered contrasting fortunes.
Despite winning the first set 6-1 against Mandy Minella of Luxembourg, Date-Krumm lost the next two sets 6-3.
The tournament comes just six months after Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami followed by a series of crises at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
"I think this year is special for everybody," world number three Vera Zvonareva told AFP.
"I think everyone had doubts about the tournament happening when the terrible disaster happened...we are all happy that we have been able to come here and play here and actually have this event."