Maria Sharapova Beats Aryna Sabalenka to Win Tianjin Open Title

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Maria Sharapova Beats Aryna Sabalenka to Win Tianjin Open Title

Former world number one Maria Sharapova has won her first title since May 2015, beating Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6 (10-8) in the Tianjin Open final.

The 30-year-old Russian was playing her seventh event since she returned to the tour in April from a 15-month drug ban.

She trailed 4-1 in both sets before overcoming the 19-year-old Belarusian, who was contesting her first WTA final, in two hours and five minutes.

It is the five-time Grand Slam winner's 36th WTA tournament victory.

Sharapova was denied a wildcard for the French Open, missed Wimbledon through injury and reached the US Open fourth round as a wildcard before losing to Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova.

The Russian, who began the week ranked 86th in the world, received a wildcard for the event in China.

She broke a nervous-looking Sabalenka in the opening game but then lost four games in succession as the teenager struck back with aggressive returns.

The Russian got back on serve at 4-3 after a 16-point game and then claimed the decisive break with a forehand winner down the line.

World number 101 Sabalenka surged into a 5-1 advantage in the second set with some more fiercely struck returns before Sharapova responded with five consecutive games to serve for the match at 6-5.

But she was unable to complete victory and a double fault sent the set into a tie-break, which saw the players drop four successive points on serve.

Sabalenka survived three match points but a double fault gave Sharapova a fourth chance and she duly recorded her first title since the Italian Open two years and five months ago.

Source: BBC