Sharapova reaches first final since doping ban
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.