Maria Sharapova Wins 1st WTA Title Since Drug Ban

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2017

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after winning her women's singles final match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus at the Tianjin Open tennis tournament in Tianjin on October 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / WANG Zhao        (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)
WANG ZHAO/Getty Images

Maria Sharapova beat Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-5, 7-6 (8) in the final of the 2017 Tianjin Open on Sunday to claim her first title since returning from a drug ban.

It was the Russian's first tournament victory in more than two years; the Italian Open in May 2015 was her last. She served a 15-month ban that ended in April after testing positive for banned substance meldonium. 

Sharapova, 30, and the 19-year-old Sabalenka battled for more than two hours in China before the five-time Grand Slam winner sealed a straight-sets victory following a tight tiebreak. 

The teenager led 4-1 in both sets but was not clinical enough on her serve to convert either lead into a definitive advantage.

Sharapova's serving was also disappointing—there were 11 breaks in the match—but she used all her experience to earn the triumph. 

The former world No. 1 went through the entire tournament without dropping a set and will look to continue her winning streak at the 2017 Kremlin Cup in Moscow, which begins Monday.