(Reuters) – Maria Sharapova is looking for a strong finish to a season that began with a doping ban and hit a high in China on Sunday when she won her first title in over two years.
The former world number one, who returned from the 15-month ban in April, defeated Belarusian teenager Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6(8) in the final of the Tianjin Open on Sunday.
Sharapova said she was looking forward to building on the success next week in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup, a tournament she has not appeared at since 2007.
“Obviously coming there with the title already means a lot, but I do really want to finish strong,” said the Russian, who accepted a wild card for the event.
“I don’t remember the last time that I played three events in a row. But I will give it everything I have got and I know I have so many amazing fans there.”
The five-times grand slam champion said the Tianjin title, the 36th of her career, was special.
“It has been a couple of years since I have held the winner’s trophy. It is a great feeling,” she said.
“When you start all the way from the beginning of the tournament and then you end up playing the final in a full stadium with so much enthusiasm and energy and you are the one that wins the last point, just everything falls into place.
“You have to appreciate those moments, never take them for granted.”
Sharapova takes on Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova in the opening round in Moscow.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru,; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)