WTA Moments is a video series highlighting key historic milestones at the tour's biggest events. In its first installment, WTA Moments: Stuttgart looks at Maria Sharapova's three-peat at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix will always hold a special place in the heart of Maria Sharapova. Stuttgart's Porsche Arena is where the former No.1 found her confidence and game on clay, winning 13 consecutive matches to capture back-to-back-to-back titles in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
For Sharapova, success in Stuttgart was a near-guarantee of success at Roland Garros. In two of the three years she lifted the Stuttgart trophy, Sharapova went on to win the French Open (2012, 2014) and in 2013 she progressed to the final.
"It is no secret that I absolutely loved playing in Stuttgart," Sharapova said. "It was an incremental part of my success leading up to Roland Garros.
"When I look back to my first win in Stuttgart, I played flawless tennis, I gained confidence with every match. I had some tough battles along the way.
"I also won a Porsche 911 and I got to drive it down the ramp with the brake on, which was completely embarrassing and very funny," she said, laughing.
Over the course of her 13-match run, which began with her tournament debut, Sharapova defeated three Slam champions - including two Roland Garros champions - in the finals: Victoria Azarenka (2012), Li Na (2013), and Ana Ivanovic (2014). The Russian finished her career with a 16-3 record in Stuttgart, the most wins of any player since the tournament switched to clay in 2009. She is the only player to have won the clay event three times.
Sharapova's Career Winning Percentage: Clay
Prior to 2009: 53-14 (79.1%)
After 2009: 106-20 (84.1%)
Prior to 2009, Sharapova played 15 clay tournaments in her career, winning just one title at Amelia Island. From 2009 on, she played 31 clay tournaments and won 10 titles. Though she famously likened her early movement on clay as a "cow on ice", the terre battue would become the surface that would define the last decade of Sharapova's career.
"From fans, to the organizers, to the players, Stuttgart holds so many special memories and there's a reason why all of us consider it to be one of the best tournaments of the year."