The stage was set for a classic at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia - Maria Sharapova versus Li Na.
Li Na, the defending French Open champion, was in complete command early on, building a 64 40 lead.
But Maria Sharapova is a fighter - she is also 19-1 in three-setters since the beginning of 2011.
Maria Sharapova would win the second set and even save match point in the third set, serving at 5-6.
In just a few minutes shy of three hours, Maria Sharapova finally prevailed over Li Na, 46 64 76(5).
Having won in Rome last year, it was Maria Sharapova's first successful clay court title defense.
Maria Sharapova took a 7-4 lead in her head-to-head with Li Na, but more importantly 2-0 this year.
Li Na reached her biggest final since becoming Asia's first Grand Slam champion in Paris a year ago.
Maria Sharapova has won four of her last five WTA titles on clay - the other came on hardcourts.
The overall breakdown of Maria Sharapova's 26 WTA titles is five clay, three grass, 18 hardcourt.
French tennis icons Yannick Noah and Mary Pierce were on hand for the trophy ceremony on Sunday.
Maria Sharapova will have a week off this week to prepare for the only Grand Slam she hasn't won yet.
Yannick Noah was the French Open champion in 1983 while Mary Pierce won her home Grand Slam in 2000.
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won the doubles title earlier in the day, their fifth title of the year.
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci became the first all-Italian duo to win the tournament since 1985.