Tennis

Sharapova wins first title in two years

Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova was made to fight by 102nd-ranked teenager Aryna Sabalenka in yesterday's Tianjin Open final before winning her first title since her 15-month doping ban.

The former world No. 1, who returned to action in April, came from behind in both sets and needed four championship points in the tie-breaker before winning 7-5, 7-6 (10/8).

Sharapova clasped her hands to her chest in delight after winning her 36th tour title and first since the 2015 Italian Open.

The 30-year-old was contesting the seventh tournament of an injury-plagued and controversial comeback since testing positive for the banned substance meldonium last year.

Sabalenka, 19, was broken in the opening game but any expectations that she would roll over dissolved when she won four straight games to go 4-1 up.

Sharapova's coach Sven Groeneveld urged her to use the body serve, and momentum shifted as she held the next game and then edged a nine-minute game seven to wrestle it back on serve.

Sabalenka slammed her racket 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.

The second set followed a similar pattern and Sabalenka was 5-1 up before Sharapova reeled her in, breaking three times - and saving a set-point along the way - before serving for the match at 6-5.

But a double-fault from the Russian took it to a closely contested tie-break, where Sharapova held championship points four times before sealing it after two hours and five minutes.

Sharapova, whose ranking has dropped to 86, heads to this week's Kremlin Cup in Moscow for the first time since 2007, after also being given a wildcard in her home tournament. - AFP

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