Maria Sharapova produced a determined display to see off Ashleigh Barty 7-5 3-6 6-2 and set up a second round meeting with Dominika Cibulkova at the Italian Open.
The Russian found form for the first time this year during an impressive run to the last eight in Madrid, and she picked up where she left off in Rome.
After both players battled to holds in their opening service games, Sharapova forged ahead by breaking in game three.
The set then progressed smoothly for the Russian until she served for it at 5-4. She hit a backhand into the net and made a couple of forehand errors to go down 0-40. Barty took advantage. She manoeuvred her way to the net and put away an easy smash to seal the break.
However, the Australian wasted her return to parity. She made two double-faults to gift Sharapova a break point, and the five-time Grand Slam champion finished a brilliant point with a stunning cross-court forehand winner to take it, before holding to seal the set.
Barty fought back superbly in the second set. She used her extensive range of shots and her excellent court coverage to fight for every point and almost went up a break in game four.
Sharapova saved four break points on that occasion but the Australian was not deterred. She finally broke the Russian in game six before saving three break points to establish a 5-2 lead.
After Barty clinched the second set with a gutsy hold, neither player gave any quarter at the start of the decider, and consequently the first three games took 23 minutes to conclude.
All three went with serve, although both Sharapova and Barty had to save three break points apiece to keep it that way.
After those gruelling games, the Russian seemed to free up. She unleashed some huge trademark strikes to break her Australian opponent in game four, and then blazed her way to an easy hold.
Suddenly Sharapova was just two games away from progressing. She dominated her next service game to go 5-2 up, and then produced a succession of huge groundstrokes to break Barty for victory.