Tennis

Maria Sharapova aiming to become world's best

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Maria Sharapova's quite fabulous year continued on Sunday after being crowned China Open champion, but the new world No.2 is far from ready to halt her ascent back up the rankings just yet.

The Russian star has a new target in her sights with the season drawing to a close, she wants to see in 2015 as the world's best once more.

Serena Williams is currently top of the women's tree but doubts over her fitness could see Sharapova leapfrog her before the year is out. The 18-time Grand Slam champion withdrew from the China Open with knee issues and could be forced to endure a spell off-court. 

China Open title

Regardless, the new world no.2 is certainly in the perfect vein of form to achieve her goals and displayed her brilliance by defeating Petra Kvitova 6-4 2-6 6-3 in the Beijing show-piece.

Kvitova is not one to be taken lightly, the Czech Republican was crowned as Wimbledon champion for a second time earlier this summer and she didn't roll over for Sharapova, who hadn't dropped a single set en-route to the final. 

However the five-time Grand Slam champion overcome a second set wobble to hold aloft her fourth title of the year. 

This may not mean quite as much as her French Open title back in summer but it has put the 27-year-old in a good position to launch an assault on Williams' tag as the world's best.

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Rivals

The two rivals are arguably the most recognised in female tennis and it will be intriguing to see who comes out on top. 

It marks quite a contrast from Sharapova's injury-riddled exploits in 2013 where she missed half of the season and she recognises how special a return to the top spot would be with all things considered.

"Of course, it's an incredible achievement if I could do it, considering where I started the year," she said to reporters after beating Kvitova.

Sharapova will only have one more chance to usurp Williams, however. The WTA Tour Finals in Singapore will be the next and last time we'll see the tall blonde in action this year, nonetheless she'll have the opportunity to get the ranking points she needs.

Great year

Even if she doesn't complete the feat, Sharapova will look back upon a positive year. Aside from Roland Garros and Beijing, she also won titles in Madrid and Stuttgart:  "I know I've had a great year," she continued.

"I'm going to go into the last tournament that I have just wanting to elevate my performance, use this week as a great stepping stone in the right direction, and finish it off well."

It has been quite some time since Sharapova topped the world. She got there nine years ago, as a teenager, but a difficult few years of injury halted her progress until this recent flourish.

Return to the top

To top the world off the back of such a long absence would certainly satisfy the world's richest female athlete: "I've been fortunate enough and very lucky to be number one in the world before in my career," she admitted. 

"I'm very happy to be in the situation today, knowing that I have the opportunity to do that again, to try to get the number one spot."

While its good news for Sharapova at the moment, things are looking less rosy for her boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov - another tennis star.

The Bulgarian insisted he was confident of securing a Tour Finals spot in the men's equivalent, however the 23-year-old finds himself three places off the minimum eighth position needed to qualify with time running out.  

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Topics:
Tennis
Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams

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