Maria Sharapova soared into the top 60 of the women’s tennis tour rankings after she won her first title in two years.
Sharapova’s 7-5, 7-6 (10-8) over Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus to clinch the Tianjin Open in China at the weekend marked her first victory since returning from a 15-month doping ban in April.
“It is a special title, a special victory,” the former top-ranked Russian said in a post-match news conference. “It has been a couple of years since I have held the winner’s trophy. It is a great feeling, a team effort.”
It was the 36th singles title of her career, which she won without losing a set.
Sharapova’s first tournament victory since winning on clay in Rome in 2015 pushed her 29 places higher to No. 57 of the rankings of the women’s WTA Tour on Monday, meaning she is guaranteed direct entry into January’s Australian Open.
Earlier in the season, the French Open refused to give Sharapova a wild card while the US Open did grant her direct entry into the main draw. She pulled out of Wimbledon with an injury.
Sharapova had been in need of receiving wild cards because she no longer had a ranking following her ban.
Sharapova’s ranking may get another boost this week at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, which gave her a wild card last week.
“I am really looking forward to playing in my home country as the last event of the year,” Sharapova said.
“Obviously coming there with the title already means a lot, but I do really want to finish strong, even though it is a very fast turnaround, and 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.”