Maria Sharapova enjoyed lifting her first WTA trophy since coming back from the Meldonium doping ban in April, overcoming Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6(8) in the hotly-contested Tianjin Open final. The five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova recovered from deep deficits in both sets against Sabalenka and won the $426,750 International-level event without dropping a set, her 36th career title.
After opening the title match by breaking Sabalenka’s serve, Sharapova’s downfall started, as the Russian quickly fell to 1-4. After a long seventh game, Sharapova converted her fourth break point to get the set back on serve, regain control and frustrate the first-time WTA finalist Sabalenka, eventually winning the set by virtue of yet another break in the eleventh game. In the second set, Sharapova’s comeback was even more dramatic, as the Russian rebounded from a 1-5 deficit and won her first title since the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in 2015.
Besides the world No.102 Sabalenka, who is now set to make her Top 100 debut, the list of Sharapova’s victims in Tianjin includes Irina-Camelia Begu, Magda Linette, Stefanie Voegele and third-seeded defending champion Peng Shuai. The next stop for Sharapova is Moscow, where she’ll play the Kremlin Cup as a wildcard, appearing at the tournament for the first time since 2007.
Sharapova’s winning apparel: the Nike Zoom Vapor 9 ID shoes, Winter Maria Premier Skirt and Winter Maria Premier Tank. To fight the Chinese cold, Masha wore the black and white Nike Winter Maria Jacket.