BEIJING (AFP) - Maria Sharapova said Sunday it would be an "incredible achievement" if she ended the season as the world number one as she moves into second place after clinching the China Open title. Her next event will be the WTA Finals in Singapore, the end-of-season finale involving the world's top eight women players, where she could rise to number one in the world.
Sharapova was only the fourth seed in Beijing, where she did not compete last year as she was sidelined with a right shoulder injury which forced her out for the second half of 2013. But the Russian has staged an incredible comeback since her injury nightmare, and will jump two places to second in the rankings after Sunday's hard-fought 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Petra Kvitova.
The French Open champion is within reach of current world number one Serena Williams, who has doubts cast over the rest of her season after she withdrew from the Beijing tournament with a left knee injury.
"I've been fortunate enough and very lucky to be number one in the world before in my career," Sharapova said after her victory in China. "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."
Sharapova claimed her fourth title of the year in Beijing, with her previous victories coming in Stuttgart and Madrid in the lead-up to her fifth Grand Slam at Roland Garros.
The 27-year-old attained the top spot for the first time in August 2005 and has held it for a total of 21 non-consecutive weeks. But she recognises that becoming the top women's top player again - following a long injury layoff - would represent a remarkable comeback.
"Of course, it's an incredible achievement if I could do it, considering where I started the year," she said.
Sharapova insisted she will not cram more tournaments into her schedule to build up points before the end of the season.
"In the meantime I know I've had a great year - and 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," she said.
Sharapova will be named number two when the WTA adjusts its rankings on Monday.