Sharapova reaches first final since doping ban
Maria Sharapova has not won a title since May 2015, but her wait could come to an end when she faces Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday.
Maria Sharapova will face teenager Aryna Sabalenka in her first final since serving a drugs ban after coasting to a straight-sets victory over defending champion Peng Shuai in the Tianjin Open.
The five-time grand slam champion has not dropped a set this week and stands on the brink of a 36th WTA singles title â€“ and a first since May 2015 â€“ following a 6-3 6-1 demolition of third seed Peng on Saturday.
Sharapova set the tone by breaking in the first game of the match and did not allow Peng a sniff of fighting back in the first set, breaking for a second time after losing only six points on serve in the opener.
The former world number one pressed home her advantage, opening up a 3-0 lead in the second set and saving the only three break points she faced in the fifth game to lead 4-1.
Sharapova broke again in the next game and needed only one match point to serve out the match, setting up a showdown with the 102-ranked Sabalenka.
While Sharapova, who will play in the Kremlin Cup on home soil next week, has become accustomed to playing in finals during a hugely successful career, Sabalenka will be playing in her first WTA Final on Sunday after easing to a 6-1 6-3 victory over Sara Errani.
The outsider served 10 aces and saw off the Italian by winning a second set which included eight service breaks, the 19-year-old from Belarus securing the only hold to end Errani's hopes of claiming a 10th WTA singles title.