Sharapova's Greatest Clay Court Triumph
Published May 15, 2011 12:00
ROME, Italy - Showing her power game is most certainly adaptable to all surfaces, Maria Sharapova captured the biggest clay court title of her career on Sunday afternoon, maintaining her mastery over Samantha Stosur and taking home the Premier-level Internazionali BNL d'Italia crown.
The final of the $2,050,000 event got off to a gloomy start, three hours of rain delay pushing it until after 5pm; but once the clouds cleared the No.7-seeded Sharapova shone through, winning 16 of the first 19 points to storm ahead 4-0 then never really falling behind to score a 62 64 victory. She ended it with a huge inside out forehand into the open court, her 18th winner of the match.
"I'm going to apologize in advance because my Italian is very poor, so I'm going to speak in English," Sharapova said to her adoring Italian fans during the on-court ceremony. "I'm so happy to be the champion. It means so much to me to add this title to the ones I already have. Rome is such a special place and I've dreamed of holding up this trophy. There are a lot of tournaments coming up, and this is a great start to everything. I can't wait to be back next year."
Sharapova was particularly gracious towards those who helped her along the way. "Thanks to everyone for being so supportive. I'm happy to have so many great fans here in Italy, and that includes all my Russian fans who brought flags out today. And of course my mom and my dad, who are watching on TV."
Sharapova, who had also taken out Caroline Wozniacki en route to the final - a fifth career victory over a reigning No.1 for the former No.1 - won her third WTA clay court title, but first at the Premier level (her first two came at Internationals in Amelia Island and Strasbourg). It was her 23rd overall WTA title.
Sharapova has clearly put herself in the conversation of French Open favorites - it is the only major she hasn't won. "I surely wasn't the favorite going into a clay court event like this. To beat players who have had great results on clay means a lot to me. I may not be the best mover or best slider on clay, or the strongest player with the strongest legs, but there's a lot more than that in tennis."
No.6-seeded Stosur, who had pulled off upsets over No.2 seed Francesca Schiavone and No.4 seed Li Na en route to her first final since Roland Garros almost a year ago, fell to 0-8 lifetime against Sharapova. Her serve was under particular attack - she won just 38% of second serve points and even struggled on her first serve, winning just 52% of those. She was broken five times.
"I'm disappointed to lose but as a whole, I thought Maria played quite well and I simply wasn't at my best today. It wasn't too bad, but it wasn't the final I wanted," Stosur said. "But it has been a great week and each week I played in Europe I got a bit better. It's what you want heading into a Grand Slam."
Sharapova and Stosur are projected to switch spots on the new rankings, Sharapova moving from No.8 to No.7 and Stosur going from No.7 to No.8.