Sharapova claims first title since doping ban
Maria Sharapova claimed her first title since returning from her doping ban as she battled back from stuttering starts in both sets to beat Aryna Sabalenka in the Tianjin Open final.
Five-time grand slam champion Sharapova had not claimed a tournament win since her success at the Rome Masters two years ago, her chances reduced by a 15-month absence after testing positive for banned substance meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
The Russian returned from that suspension in April but had only made it as far as the semi-finals before this week in China.
Her long wait for a trophy finally ended on Sunday as she beat teenager Sabalenka 7-5 7-6 (10-8), Sharapova finishing the tournament having not dropped a set.
That record looked in danger early on as Sabalenka â€“ playing in her first WTA final â€“ broke twice to take a 4-1 lead in the first set, but Sharapova dug deep and soon restored parity by converting a fourth chance in the seventh game.
She applied further pressure four games later to move ahead and duly served out for a 1-0 lead, the 30-year-old taking her second set point.
Any thoughts that would lead to a comfortable victory quickly disappeared as Sabalenka again made a superb start, the Belarusian stormingÂ to within a game of levelling the match.
However, nerves began to kick in and Sharapova took full advantage, fighting back from 5-1 down to 5-5, Sabalenka double faulting to hand her illustrious rival a way back in.
And the former world number one duly accepted that opening to make itÂ five games in a row before edging the tie-break to get her hands on silverware once more.