Maria Sharapova outlasted Carla Suárez Navarro to not only win the milestone 35th WTA title of her career, but also give herself a huge boost for the upcoming French Open.
WTA Staff

ROME, Italy - Maria Sharapova battled more than two and a half hours to make it past Carla Suárez Navarro and win the milestone 35th WTA title of her career at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.

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She came very close to losing, though - Suárez Navarro not only won the first set, 6-4, but she stayed close in the second set, catching up from 1-3 to 3-all, and 3-5 to 5-all, just two games from victory.

But the No.3-seeded Sharapova shifted into another gear from there, winning back-to-back love games to sneak out the second set, 7-5, and then running away with it in the third set to finish off the No.10-seeded Suárez Navarro after two hours and 35 grueling minutes on center court, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.

Sharapova finished it off on an inside out forehand winner - her 39th winner of the match.

"It wasn't easy to find a rhythm out there, with the way she plays, and the wind - I really had to adjust," Sharapova said. "But I'm proud I was able to stay in there. I never felt I was playing very clean until the end of the third set. So it shows that it's good to hang in there and just stay positive out there.

"In the end I was the fresher one, and the more aggressive one, so it's all a positive. And looking at how I started the clay court season in Stuttgart and where I am now, I feel I'm in a much better spot."

Sharapova has now won the Internazionali BNL d'Italia three times (2011, 2012, 2015). She's only won one other WTA event three times - the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart (2012, 2013, 2014).

And just by reaching the final, Sharapova secured a rise from No.3 to No.2 on the WTA Rankings, trading spots with Simona Halep. The rise is pretty significant for the Russian - now she's guaranteed not to face Serena Williams until at least the final of the French Open. Williams will be the No.1 seed.

It was still a dream week for Suárez Navarro, though - not only did she beat three Top 10 players at the same tournament for the first time in her career, but the last of those wins was against a No.2-ranked Halep, the biggest win of her career. And she's got some big French Open seeding news herself - she'll rise from No.10 to No.8 on the WTA Rankings now, securing her a coveted Top 8 seed in Paris.

"I was practicing really hard before Madrid and Rome, and I'm playing some good tennis right now," the Spaniard said. "Maria was just too good today. It was a really close match, and I started really well, but at the end of the second set she started playing more aggressive, and I think that was the key.

"I'm going back home tonight and will just be getting ready for Roland Garros this week."