Maria Sharapova has been copping it from everywhere of late.

The tennis superstar has returned to the court after a 15-month drugs suspension and not everyone is happy about it. Fellow players have shamed her and blasted tennis officials for facilitating her smooth passage back into the sport, and journalists have constantly been asking prickly questions about her delicate situation.

But it was something else that stumped Sharapova during a press conference after her first round win over Christina McHale at the Italian Open in Rome.

Bizarrely, the topic of conversation between her and a male reporter drifted towards her love life - or lack thereof.


The exchange between the pair started innocently enough, as she answered a question about how comfortable she is in her third tournament back from suspension.

"I feel like every match or every day I learn a little bit more and things are coming back to me about the way that I feel and the way I get ready for a match and my habits on match days and those things," Sharapova said.

"Now you're back in the groove of things and I'm enjoying being back in these cities and waking up in Rome and waking up in Madrid and I'm a happy person."

Then things got weird.

The journalist questioned if Sharapova could be happy without a boyfriend before she turned the tables, suggesting perhaps he would be the one better off with a male companion.

Sharapova: I'm a happy person.
Reporter: Even without a boyfriend?
Sharapova: No comment.
Reporter: It would be nice.
Sharapova: Is it? It would be nice. OK - for you. Are you married?

Sharapova's face and the reaction of other journalists in the room told the story of just how awkward the situation was. Fortunately, the WTA uploaded a video of the incident to its Facebook page for all to see.

Sharapova Teases Reporter

“I’m a happy person.” Even without a boyfriend? "Are you married?" 😂

Posted by WTA on Monday, 15 May 2017

Sharapova wasn't buying what this reporter was selling, unlike one occasion at the Australian Open in 2014 when she was so impressed with one Aussie journo she completely forgot what he'd asked because she was too busy admiring him.

Sharapova has already gained enough rankings points since her comeback to enter qualifying for Wimbledon.

The five-time grand slam winner took advantage of another wildcard and overcame a shaky opening set to defeat the 58th-ranked Christina McHale 6-4 6-2 in the first round of the Italian Open.

The win earned Sharapova enough points to enter the top 200 of the rankings and earn at least a spot in qualifying at the All England Club.

"Winning matches will get me places, so if that's where it got me today, then I will take it," said Sharapova, who entered this week as the world No. 211. "The fact that I'm back and playing three weeks in a row now ... for me is a big deal."

Sharapova will learn this week if she will be granted a wildcard for the French Open this month, with Roland Garros organisers planning an announcement on Facebook.
"I won't be following it live. I will be focused on my match, as I'm playing tomorrow," Sharapova said, adding that she would accept a qualifying wildcard. "Nothing is a disappointment after being away from the game for 15 months."

Sharapova was broken by McHale in the opening game and went on to drop serve twice more in the first set before finding her groove.

Tournament organisers were criticised for giving a wildcard to Sharapova instead of former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, an Italian. But fans cheered and held up signs of encouragement for Sharapova, a three-time Rome champion.

Sharapova's next opponent will be Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who beat former French Open finalist Lucie Safarova 7-5 4-6 6-3. Sharapova could face top-ranked Angelique Kerber in the third round.

Sharapova edged Lucic-Baroni in three tough sets in Madrid last week but then lost to Eugenie Bouchard.

At the start, McHale was able to run down balls in the corners and make Sharapova play extra shots, which she often missed.

But once the second set began, Sharapova was in total control and began to resemble the player who won the trophy at the Foro Italico in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Still, there were signs of rustiness, like when Sharapova dumped a first serve into the red clay before the net while attempting to close out the match. McHale went on to win that point and game but Sharapova broke the American's serve in the next game to end it.
Sharapova led 21-7 in winners and committed 22 unforced errors to McHale's 25.