Maria Sharapova, former number one ranked female tennis player in the world in 2005, was banned from the World Tennis Association tour on March 12th, 2016 for doping. Her suspension lasted for 15 months from the date that she failed the drug test, January 26th, 2016 in which she was not allowed to compete in any tournaments.
Sharapova certainly had an athletic record to be proud of.At the age of eighteen, she won the U.S. Open, followed by a total of 35 titles, 5 that are Grand Slam titles. She has competed on the women’s tour for 16 years. Her world completely changed though, when she was charged with the use of performance-enhancement drug, meldonium. This drug treats heart disease and was a drug Sharapova used since 2006 for her health problems. Sharapova had taken meldonium for magnesium deficiency, heart problems, and because of her family history of diabetes. Meldonium has been proven to help with many symptoms of diabetes. On January 1st, 2016 meldonium was added to the list of banned substances. Because this substance was added to the list of illegal drugs, Sharapova was one of three athletes who were suspended due to their use.
Immediately after being charged with drug abuse, Sharapova stated that she believed the ban was “unfairly harsh” and that her use was completely “unintentional.” Sharapova claims that she had been taking this substance for a long period of time and didn’t realize it had been added to the list of banned substances. Originally Sharapova was going to be banned from the tour for two years, but he Court of Arbitration for Sport eventually agreed that it should be reduced to 15 months.
Upon her return to competitive tennis, many were unsure if she was going to be able to compete at the same level she was before. Sharapova lost her highest WTA ranking because of the suspension and obviously had not won a title for more than two years. In addition, her inability to play in two of the biggest Grand Slams in 2017 created a question about whether she would be able to come back to the same level and compete with the top players. But by winning the Tianjin Open on October 15th, Sharapova was able to prove that she is back to playing at her full potential. During the tournament, Sharapova did not drop a single set, so it is safe to say that she is able to compete at the highest level and win with confidence.
The Tianjin Open is a International- Level WTA event in Tianjin, China. Sharapova won a total of five matches and beat the third and ninth seeded players to claim this title. She worked hard to win these tough matches in this tournament. Sharapova ultimately defeated Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus 7-5 7-6 (10-8) in the final. Sabalenka, only nineteen years old, has reached a career- high ranking of number seventy-six on the WTA Tour. Sabalenka made Sharapova perform at her best by continuing to fight until the last point of the match. The match was filled with ups and downs as Sharapova went down in both sets, only to rally back. Sharapova got off to a slow start and was down 4-1 in the opening set. Nevertheless, she was able to fight back and luckily win the set 7-5. Similarly in the second set, Sablenka blew a 5-1 lead when Sharapova won five consecutive games to make it 6-5. The battle didn’t end there. Sablenka took the match to a second set tiebreaker which Sharapova won 10-8.
It is amazing that this was Sharapova’s 36th title after years of competing and is definitely a special win for her. Sharapova will move up twenty-nine spots in the WTA rankings next week. After winning, Maria explained, “Sometimes you never know when it’s going to come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.” Even after a tough journey, she was grateful and especially happy to win the title in Tianjin.