BRISBANE, Australia - It was one of the closest rivalries of 2014 - Maria Sharapova against Ana Ivanovic - and the 2015 edition of that rivalry kicked off in the final of the Premier-level Brisbane International on Saturday night, with Sharapova rallying from a set down to come out on top.
Sharapova and Ivanovic split their four meetings last year, with Sharapova winning in Stuttgart and Beijing and Ivanovic prevailing in Rome and Cincinnati. They knew this one would be tough too.
"We always go in and compete. We don't give up until the end. I think that's what makes our matches so great," Sharapova said going into the match. "I look forward to another good match here."
And another good match it was. The first set alone lasted more than an hour, 62 minutes to be exact, with Sharapova jumping out to a 4-1 lead and even bringing up two set points at 5-4, but the No.2-seeded Ivanovic hanging on every time and eventually sneaking the set out in a tie-break.
But the No.1-seeded Sharapova didn't get down on herself, getting early breaks in the next two sets and never letting go, eventually prevailing in two hours and 38 minutes, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3.
"She had some great comebacks. She got back the balls that I thought weren't coming over the net," Ivanovic said. "That's why she's where she is, and that's why she's such a great champion."
"She was doing a lot of things better in the first set, and she deserved to win the first set, but I hung in there," Sharapova said in her post-match press conference. "It was important to get that break, and the third set came down to a few points, really. I'm just happy that I managed to get it in three."
Sharapova now has 34 WTA titles to her name, but even more special is that this is just her second time winning a WTA title in Australia - the first was, of course, the Australian Open in 2008.
The World No.2 has also now won at least one WTA title every year since 2003.
Additionally, Sharapova's creeping closer and closer to changing that World No.2 to a World No.1 - with this win she's going to move within just 681 points of the current No.1, Serena Williams. With so many points up for grabs at the Australian Open, there could be some major drama ahead.
It was the pair's second WTA doubles title together, having won Miami last year as well.