Source: Agencies | 2013-2-14 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
Maria Sharapova of Russia returns to Caroline Garcia of France during their Qatar Open match in Doha on Tuesday.
SERENA Williams began her campaign to return to world No. 1 at the Qatar Open by beating Russian Daria Gavrilova while Maria Sharapova, among the American's rivals for top spot, also progressed on Tuesday.
Second seed Williams, who will reclaim the No. 1 spot if she reaches the semifinals, enjoyed a 6-2, 6-1 second-round win over the 160th-ranked Gavrilova.
The 15-time grand slam winner has not topped the rankings since October 2010, but is close to returning to the pinnacle having claimed last year's Wimbledon and US Open titles.
Williams, who has now won 57 of her last 60 matches, broke Gavrilova in the sixth game of the first set and then raced away with the match in 54 minutes.
Question marks hung over the world No. 2's fitness heading into the event after she lost in the Australian Open quarterfinal last month while suffering from back and ankle injuries.
"Mostly I've just been trying to play smoothly and avoid problems, and just do the things I've been working on," Williams said on the WTA website.
Third-ranked Sharapova broke serve in the first game against France's Caroline Garcia before cruising to a 6-3, 6-2 win in one hour and 16 minutes.
It was a rematch of their tussle at the French Open two years ago when the Russian found herself 3-6, 1-4 down before rallying for a three-set victory.
French Open champion Sharapova also has a slim chance of returning to the top spot but needs to win the tournament and hope Williams falls short of the last four and current world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus fails to reach the final.