Sharapova, 30, saw off the world number 47 6-1 6-4 on the Margaret Court Arena.
It was her first match at Melbourne since falling flat a medications test at the 2016 occasion, which prompted a 15-month boycott.
"I felt like I have got a lot of things out of the way physically and emotionally and mentally last year," said Russian Sharapova.
"There was a lot of firsts again for me, playing the first tournament, first Grand Slam, and just different feelings and what it would be routinely.
"But it felt pretty routine today, just really happy to be back here."
She will play Anastasija Sevastova in the second round. Latvian fourteenth seed Sevastova beat Sharapova in the last 16 of the US Open in September.
Sharapova, the previous world number one who is presently positioned 48, is hoping to add to the Australian Open title she won in 2008.
She hit 22 victors to Maria's seven, yet piled on 28 unforced blunders and went a separate in the second set before recouping.
"We know it's only going to get tougher with every match you play," she added. "It's a challenge, but that's why it's a Grand Slam."