Sunday, 15 October 2017

Maria Sharapova collects first title since drug ban

Maria Sharapova is a champion again. The former world No. 1 took down Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) in the final of the Tianjin Open on Sunday to win her first WTA title since returning from a drug ban.

Sharapova entered the tournament as a wild card and did not drop a set en route to the championship, though Sabalenka had her on the ropes in both the first and second sets Sunday.

Sharapova trailed 4-1 in the first set and 5-1 in the second before rallying to victory both times to claim her first trophy since winning the Italian Open in May 2015.

She served a 15-month ban after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium and returned to the tour in April, since which time she has been a pariah on tour with her rivals calling her out at every opportunity.

Maria Sharapova collects first title since drug ban

During the U.S. Open in August, Caroline Wozniacki suggested Sharapova was receiving unfair, preferential treatment from tournament and tour officials, saying, “When you look at center court – I understand completely the business side of things and everything – but someone who comes back from a drug sentence … and then all of the sudden gets to play every single match on center court, I think that’s a questionable thing to do.”

Wozniacki, who lost in the second round of the U.S. Open, later added: “It doesn’t set a good example.”

Sharapova was playing in her first Grand Slam tournament after being denied a wild-card entry into the French Open and missing Wimbledon with an injury.

Before being bounced by Anastasija Sevastova in the fourth round, Sharapova did not miss a chance to get a shot in at Wozniacki.

“I don’t make the schedule,” Sharapova said. “I’m a pretty big competitor. If you put me out in the parking lot of Queens in New York City, I’m happy to play there. All that matters to me is I’m in the fourth round. Yeah, I’m not sure where she is.”

This week, it was just Sharapova standing at the end, once again with a trophy in hand.

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