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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.

NEWS
14 Oct 2017, 14:14 IST
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MariaSharapovacropped
Five-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova

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 – and a first since May 2015 – 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.

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