STUTTGART, Germany - She was in all kinds of trouble - her opponent led 63 31 with a point for 63 41 - but there's a reason Maria Sharapova is a four-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1, and that unrelenting will to win came out in full force again as the Russian battled back to beat Ana Ivanovic in the final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, 36 64 61, and capture her 30th WTA title.
Sharapova came into the match as a strong favorite, not only being the two-time defending champion in Stuttgart but also leading Ivanovic in their head-to-head series, 7-2 - including winning their last six straight. But hungry to turn the tables, Ivanovic would come out on absolute fire from the get-go.
The Turning Point
Her massive forehand flowing and her backhand rock solid, Ivanovic came storming out to a 5-0 lead in the first set and, after eventually closing that set out, 6-3, she jumped out to a 3-1 second set lead.
Ivanovic even had a point for 4-1 in the second set - but an untimely double fault erased that point for 4-1, and from there it was all Sharapova, as the No.6-seeded Russian reeled off 11 of the last 13 games of the match to put the No.9-seeded Serb away after two hours and three minutes, 36 64 61.
Sharapova finished the match off on one last massive return winner - her 34th winner of the match.
By The Numbers
Though Ivanovic was clearly better during the first half of the match and Sharapova beefed her numbers up during the second half of the match, overall both players put on an impressive display during the final, with Sharapova putting together a +10 differential of winners to unforced errors (34 to 24) and Ivanovic coming in just behind her with a +9 differential of winners to unforced (32 to 23).
In the most critical moments of the match Sharapova performed much better on the most critical points. She won seven of nine break point opportunities - meanwhile, Ivanovic won five of 10 such chances.
"For the first half of the match I thought it might not be my day today, but somehow I turned it around," Sharapova said. "I had quite a slow beginning to the year, but me and my team have been working hard to get in the position to win titles again, and I'm so happy to be able to do it in Stuttgart."
And on winning a WTA tournament three times for the first time? "It's really special, and it's extra special for me because the tournament is here," Sharapova, a Porsche Brand Ambassador, added. "I feel like I'm a small part of the Porsche family. It's been an incredible few years at this tournament."
After getting a lengthy standing ovation upon receiving her runner-up trophy, Ivanovic was moved.
"I'm speechless," the former World No.1 told the crowd, "thank you so much."
"From the first moment it was always a close match," she added. "It was always a few close balls to decide each game, and it went on the whole match. In the second set she definitely went for those big shots, though, and she made some amazing points. She's just a great player, and that's what happens when you play against great players in big matches like this. You need to use your opportunities.
"But there's always next time."