Maria Sharapova recovered after going down in the first set against Carla Suarez Navarro to win her third Italian Open title in Rome on Sunday. Sharapova’s victory will be a great boost to her confidence ahead of the French Open that debuts next weekend, where the Russian champion hopes to defend her title.
Sharapova won 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 against 10th favorite Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, at the end of a highly contested game that lasted just over two and a half hours. “It’s always a special victory,” she said after receiving her trophy. “It isn’t my first time but when I’m able to hold the trophy again it brings back memories of winning it the first time.”
The Russian player has won no less than three of the last five titles in Rome, after having finished on top in 2011 and 2012. This proves her supremacy on clay surfaces, an important thing to consider ahead of the Roland Garros, which starts in about a week. The Italian Open was a good roundabout ahead of the only Grand Slam tournament that takes place on clay, and Sharapova will surely be one of the contenders in Paris.
Starting off as third favorite in Rome, in took Sharapova a while before figuring out her opponent’s play at the Foro Italico on Sunday. Suarez Navarro’s game was rather unpredictable, as the Spaniard effortlessly combined heavy topspin shots with slices. Renowned for her deceiving one-handed backhand, Suarez Navarro won the first set 6-4 and looked in good shape to take the title.
But Sharapova quickly regained control of the encounter, and went ahead 3-1 and 5-3 in the second set. Each time the Spaniard put it a good fight, and eventually the two players were level at 5-5. However, Suarez Navarro was showing signs of tiredness, and after closing the second set at 7-5, Sharapova had little trouble winning 6-1 in the decisive.
In the end, it was Sharapova’s 39 winners that brought her the victory, compared to only 12 for her opponent. After having won the 35th title of her career (11 of which came on clay), Sharapova will get back to the No. 2 spot of the WTA rankings, after Simona Halep lost against Suarez Navarro in the semifinals.
As for her opponent, Rome was Suarez Navarro’s third final of the year. Although she finished second each time, she constantly put in some good performances throughout the year, enough to climb up to the No. 8 spot in the rankings.
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