Brian Dick admires the champion's grand entrance against a Spaniard who had no answer to her...
Queen Maria I returned to the palace of her investiture yesterday and, for an hour, held court in the most compelling fashion as she steamrollered her lowly first-round opponent Nuria Llagostera Vives.
This was the reigning Wimbledon champion with her grand slam head on and with no time to worry about niggling thigh injuries, such as the one that plagued her through the DFS Classic a fortnight ago, or rivals ranked outside the top 30 in the world.
In two identical sets, which ended in a routine 6-2, 6-2 victory, the Russian teenager barely drew breath, breaking in the second and final games of each set, to seal her place in the second round and a match with Sesil Karatancheva, the Bulgarian conqueror of Britain's Amanda Janes.
She looked a much different prospect to the one that claimed a second successive title at Edgbaston Priory at the beginning of the month, conceding only one break point - at 3-1 in the second set - and even venturing forward to the net on several occasions.
While she was unsettled by a succession of opponents in Birmingham, there was none of that angst on her royal return to Wimbledon's Centre Court where, a year ago, she most memorably claimed the first major of her career by dethroning Serena Williams.
Sharapova looked every inch the defending champion, business-like, unemotional and doubly determined to continue her pursuit of fame and fortune.
Sparkling in her gold-encrusted trainers and looking as if she could take her game to another level, the 18-year-old said: "I just need some wings and I feel like I could fly."
And well Sharapova might because, with the looks and talent to become the most famous sporting female on the planet, not even the sky is the limit for the Siberian as she continues to explore her awesome sporting potential.
She says that she is finally beginning to grow into her body which, at 6ft and rake-thin, takes some doing; and as she does, she is becoming a much more powerful prospect.
"I have been working hard in the gym and it has really helped strength and endurance-wise," she said.
"I am a tall girl and grew really fast in a short period of time. It took me a while, though, and even now my arm feels like a swan's neck, it is so weak."
It didn't show yesterday. Even from the very first ball. The Spaniard had no answer to Sharapova's groundstrokes or serve as everything seemed to fall under the champion's spell.
From the opening coin toss, which dropped her way and allowed her to serve first, to a compliant opponent and a kindly over-rule by the umpire, this was Maria's day.
The first point of her defence saw her switch smoothly from forehand to backhand before Llagostera Vives buckled. 15-0.
But what's this? An unforced error. 15-15. Could Sharapova's reign be coming to an end? No, not here, not today.
Two service winners followed by a serve and drive-volley and Operation Repel Boarders was off and running.
Holding serve is only the first step, though. On grass, particularly, the return is as important. Sharapova's first effort of the campaign was withering in its power and accuracy. Llagostera Vives double-faulted to give two break points, the world No 2 accepted the first for 2-0.
From then on it was something of a procession. The first set was claimed in 28 minutes as Llagostera Vives flopped a mid-court forehand into the net to give set point. Another lofted effort drifted beyond the baseline and the set had gone.
The second set was eerie in its similarity. Leading 1-0, the Russian went into overdrive as the Sharapova Shriek flirted with supersonic decibels.
Another double fault conceded three break points, again one was enough and at 2-0 last year's monarch showed that she was in no mood to vacate her position.
If she is to continue this form and retain her title, though, she faces an unusually strong field with all of the top-ranked players vying to depose her.
She accepts that their challenge will be stronger this time, saying: "Everybody is trying to beat the No 2 player in the world.
"But I just go out there, never mind who I am playing, I want to beat them as much as they want to beat me. I love the challenge when people want to do that or underestimate me."
On this form, that would be a very serious mistake to make.