Maria Sharapova beats Shuai Peng to reach Tianjin Open final

Oct 18, 2017, 00:36
Maria Sharapova beats Shuai Peng to reach Tianjin Open final

Maria Sharapova has clinched her first WTA title since returning from a drugs ban after beating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open.

Sabalenka angrily slammed her racket down as she double-faulted to be broken for a third time and with Sharapova serving at 6-5, the Belarusian overcooked a forehand to hand over the set.

Sharapova has had a stop-start and injury-hit season since her controversial return at Stuttgart in April, following her ban for using the banned substance meldonium.

Now ranked 86, Sharapova raced into an early 3-0 lead in the second set and saw off her Chinese opponent in 78 minutes to reach her first final in two and a half years.

It was Sharapova's first tournament title on the WTA tour since claiming the Italian Open in 2015.

The former world No 1 and five-times grand-slam victor returned to action in April, since when she has had to rely on wild-card invitations to tournaments, as was the case in China.

Her biggest win in ranking terms in Tianjin was that over world No 25 Peng Shuai, but she will be heartened at reeling off the five wins necessary to put her back in the winner's circle.

Sharapova, now ranked 86th, has also been handed a wildcard for next week s Kremlin Cup in Moscow, which she will play for the first time since 2007.

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