ROME: Russia’s Maria Sharapova warmed up for the defense of her French Open title by securing her third Italian Open crown with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over Spain’s Carla Suarez on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Suarez, bidding for only the second title of her career but first from the Masters 1000 series, made a stunning start at the Foro Italico where the players faced sweltering conditions.
The Spanish 10th seed broke the world number three midway through the opening set and had Sharapova on the ropes in a tight second before the Russian found the breakthrough.
Sharapova broke the Spaniard in the eighth game of the second set for a 5-3 lead and, after going on to hand her opponent three break points in the next game, she recovered to level the match.
Sharapova admitted she had too many errors in the opening set and beginning of the second, but said: “I thought the errors I was making… were really close. I felt like I was doing the right thing and I’m glad I gave myself a chance to cut those down.
“She’s a really all-around player who can step in, can step back. She was really far behind the baseline and I feel like I took advantage of that.
“I felt that I was the fresher one, felt like I was more aggressive.”
The diminutive Suarez struggled with Sharapova’s movement and variety of shots, in particular the Russian’s two-handed backhand, which she used to devastating effect throughout.
Sharapova, who secured her final spot with victory over Victoria Azarenka, handed Suarez a break point in the opening game of the third set and, despite twice saving the game, Suarez moved ahead when Sharapova hit an easy return just wide.
That setback only served to spur the Russian, who broke back immediately, sealing the game with a two-handed backhand return that Suarez did not even bother to try and reach.
Sharapova moved 3-1 ahead when Suarez, having first saved break point, conceded the game with a weak return that hit the net — effectively ending her challenge.
The Russian held her serve for a 4-1 lead and, with Suarez’s confidence deserting her, earned a double break point before taking her lead to 5-1, holding serve on her final game to seal the victory.
Djokovic beats Federer
In the men’s side, top seed Novak Djokovic warmed up for the French Open with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-3 victory over Roger Federer to claim his fourth Italian Open title on Sunday.
In the absence of seven-time champion Rafael Nadal, ousted in the quarterfinals, the Serbian produced a near flawless performance on center court to defend his title and hand Federer his fourth finals defeat in Rome.
With Roland Garros a little more than a week away, Djokovic could emerge as the favorite to claim what is an elusive title in the French capital, especially in light of Nadal’s current woes on clay.
The Spaniard has won only one title on the surface this year, at Buenos Aires, and been beaten by Italian Fabio Fognini, Andy Murray, Djokovic and Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka in recent tournaments.