China's Tianjin Open may not be the most prestigious tournament on the WTA Tour, but it's where Maria Sharapova has won her first title since returning from a drugs ban.
The Russian defeated Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-5, 7-6 in the Chinese city to win the title. It's her first tournament win in over two years.
#36 I will always remember you 🏆 pic.twitter.com/GEczLqGRRd
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) October 15, 2017
Sharapova's win moves her back into the top-60 of the World Rankings for the first time since her ban. She received a wildcard into the Tianjin Open, but is now on the verge of earning automatic rights to enter some of the higher-ranking tournaments. She should not need any wildcards to compete in next year's Grand Slams.
"It is a special title, a special victory," Sharapova said after the win. "It has been a couple of years since I have held the winner's trophy. It is a great feeling, a team effort."
The Russian's return to tennis has not been welcomed widely. With her win in China, it looks like Sharapova will be competing in next year's biggest tournaments including all four Grand Slams.
It will be fascinating to see how her rivals react to the five-time Grand Slam winner's place in the Australian Open when the 2018 season begins.