MOSCOW  - Maria Sharapova put Russia 1-0 up over Spain in their Fed Cup World Group first round tie here on Saturday by defeating Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-2, 6-1.

Playing for the first time since losing in straight sets to Viktoria Azarenka in the final of the Australian Open, Sharapova opened with a break but then handed that back in the following game. But the Russian then ran off four games in a row to stamp her authority on the game, taking the first set in 52 minutes. In the second set Soler-Espinosa, ranked 77th in the world, ran out of gas, allowing Sharapova to grab three more breaks and win comfortably.

“I was a bit nervous before the beginning of the match as I failed to show my best tennis in my previous Fed Cup appearance in Moscow,” Sharapova said.

“It was very important to stay concentrated, to believe and prove that my tennis is better and to win the match. Luckily, I managed to do all that and now I’m really satisfied with my performance.” The clash between Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova and Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain will complete Saturday’s match schedule.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams will lead the United States in their Fed Cup World Group-II tie against Victoria Azarenka-led Belarus in Massachusets this weekend, with elder sister Venus scheduled to play only doubles.

In the draw made Friday, US captain Mary Joe Fernandez inserted 38th-ranked Christina McHale as her No. 2 singles player. McHale will have the daunting task of opening the best-of-five match tie against Azarenka, whose Australian Open triumph saw her rise to No. 1 in the world.

“Christina is very match-fit,” Fernandez said. “She had a great Australian Open and is very prepared and ready to go. Venus has had a great week of practice as well, but I think Christina has been playing a lot more.” Azarenka said she wouldn’t take McHale lightly. “I think she’s a very good player,” said Azarenka, who thrashed Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in the Australian Open final to claim her first Grand Slam title.

“She has a lot of motivation playing in front of the home crowd. She’s had some good results, played some good matches against top players and had a few big wins, so she’s a dangerous opponent.” Venus Williams is a seven-time Grand Slam champion, but hasn’t played since pulling out of the US Open, when she announced she had been diagnosed with the auto-immune disorder Sjogren Syndrome.

Serena Williams will play the second singles match on Saturday against 97th-ranked Olga Govortsova. Serena and Azarenka will then clash in the reverse singles. The winners of the World Group-II tie will advance to the World Group Playoff and play for a chance to reach the elite group and compete for the Fed Cup title in 2013. The US has been a record 17-time Fed Cup champion and is playing in the World Group-II for the first time. Belarus is trying to get beyond the World Group-II for the first time.