Li Beats Sharapova For Third Career Title
Published June 13, 2010 12:00
BIRMINGHAM, England - Li Na announced her return to the world's Top 10 by winning her third career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title at the AEGON Classic, beating Maria Sharapova in straight sets in Sunday afternoon's final.
In a rematch of their semifinal encounter at the same tournament last year, which Li won, 64 64, the Chinese outperformed the Russian once more, rallying from 1-3 to win a tight first set and then rolling through the second set in just 24 minutes for a 75 61 championship victory and her third career title, following hardcourt triumphs at Guangzhou in 2004 and Gold Coast in 2008.
Last year, Li beat Sharapova but wound up falling in the final to Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova. This year, Rybarikova lost in the third round.
"It's always exciting to be in a final because you can show your best tennis to everyone," Li said. "I had a good start to the year, which is important. If you play well at the start of the year it gives you more confidence for the rest of the year."
Li was the first Chinese ever to break the Top 10 earlier this year, reaching No.10 after a scintillating semifinal run at the Aussie Open; she spent seven straight weeks at that spot before dipping out of the elite again, falling as low as No.16 in the time since. But some strong clay court results and now a title in Birmingham have pushed her back to No.10 for at least another week.
Sharapova, who has always been excellent in Birmingham - she has never lost before the semifinals of the grass court event - was trying to become the first player this year to win three titles, after triumphs at Memphis and Strasbourg.
"Even though the first set was close, I was in trouble from early on and gave her too many looks at second serves," Sharapova said. "The goal here was to get as many matches as I could on grass. I would have loved to win but she was the better player today. She did many things better than me and returned great."
Li and Sharapova were joined in the International draw by fellow Top 20 stars Yanina Wickmayer and Aravane Rezai, with Wickmayer losing to American upstart Alison Riske in the quarterfinals and Rezai falling to Li in a three set semifinal. Riske, 19 years old, was playing her second career main draw.
In the doubles final, No.2 seeds Cara Black and Lisa Raymond won when No.1 seeds Liezel Huber and Bethanie Mattek-Sands were forced to retire trailing 63 32 due to a Huber left knee injury. Black and Raymond were playing for the second time and are now two-for-two, having won Stanford in 2003. Huber and Mattek-Sands were playing their first Tour event together.