The end of the tennis season of 2017 is near. The Premier 5 event in Wuhan is almost done, which means that the last Premier Mandatory event of the season is about to start. The China Open in Beijing stands as the highlight of the Asian leg on hard court. The women's draw is already out and to be fair, it's a pretty fancy one. A flurry of big names will try to win this title. Among those names, Maria Sharapova is the one to watch as Beijing will be her first official WTA stop since the 2017 US Open where she reached the fourth round before losing to Anastasija Sevastova.

Coincidence or not, the same Latvian will stand at the other end in Sharapova's opener in Beijing. Currently ranked 104th in the world, Sharapova's ranking was not enough to give her an entry into the main draw, but she will use a wild-card from the organizers.

Beijing presents itself with a tough draw for Sharapova

The Russian tennis star would love having a deep run at a tournament of such magnitude. It would provide her with a great pile of points and help her to boost that ranking into the top 100 - maybe even into the top 50. However, it won't be easy as the main draw is filled up to capacity with WTA top players. Sevastova will be just the warm-up party. If she gets past the 27-year-old Latvian, Sharapova may face Ekaterina Makarova next.

Moving further, the third round may bring Simona Halep (2 WTA) or Eugenie Bouchard on the other side. Despite being out of form recently the Canadian player surged past Sharapova earlier this year in Madrid. Currently ranked 85th in the world, Bouchard also received a wild-card entry into the main draw. The quarterfinals may bring Svetlana Kuznetsova or Agnieszka Radwanska, the defending champion, to the other side of the net.

Sharapova still trying to regain her pace

Trying to make her way back to the top of the WTA after spending 15 months away from the tennis court, Maria Sharapova is yet to get back her lost mojo. She benefited from a flurry of wild-cards but she is yet to clinch something big since making her comeback earlier this year in April.

She was on the verge of delivering something special at the 2017 Us Open but Sevastova had something else in mind. Now, the season is almost done and dusted, and the former world No.1 is still scrambling at the top 100 limit. The Premier Mandatory event in Beijing puts a lot of points at stake, but the question still revolves around Sharapova's ability to cash them in.