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Sharapova Rallies Over Ivanovic To Claim Third Straight Stuttgart Title

Maria Sharapova at Struttgart

By Erik Gudris | Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix event in Stuttgart might just start calling itself "The Maria Sharapova Invitational". That's because once again Maria Sharapova found a way to repeat as champion for the third year in a row.

Statisfaction: Sharapova's Clay-Court Domination

But early on in Sunday's final, it looked like another player might just be in the winner's circle.

Ana Ivanovic entered the final seeking her third title of the season. Having endured several years of chasing her service toss and chasing others in the rankings, the former No. 1 and French Open winner Ivanovic has turned things around this year. But could she finally defeat Sharapova who she last beat way back in 2007?

Ivanovic seemed ready to answer with a resounding "yes". Taking control in the opening set, Ivanovic raced ahead to a 5-0 lead. Though Ivanovic would serve for the set, Sharapova wasn't ready to give it up. Aggressive returning from Sharapova would allow her to break serve twice. But Ivanovic, with bigger hitting of her own, broke Sharapova a fourth time to seal the set 6-3.

Ivanovic would maintain her furious momentum in the second set. Breaking for a 3-1 lead, Ivanovic looked poised to perhaps close out the match. But the turning point would come in the next game.

Showing gritty resolve, Sharapova ripped a backhand down the line winner to set up a break point. She would miss out on that chance, but Sharapova would create another break point after yet another intense rally from both players. Constructing a perfect point that moved Ivanovic all over the court, Sharapova ripped a forehand winner to break back for 3-2.

With Sharapova's level rising, she broke Ivanovic again a few games later. Soon, Sharapova served out the set 6-4.

Showing no let up, Sharapova struck first in the deciding set. A massive forehand return winner gave Sharapova an early break. Sharapova would hold serve for 2-0 when Ivanovic sent a return long. Yelling out "Come on!" at the top of her lungs, the defending champion let everyone know she was not ready to surrender her title.

As Sharapova surged, Ivanovic's chances of winning the title quickly faded. In the fifth game, Ivanovic played a poor game that included serving two double faults, one at break point. Now up 4-1, Sharapova's third title looked inevitable.

That it was when Sharapova found herself holding three match points at 0-40 on Ivanovic's serve at 5-1. A massive return from Sharapova that Ivanovic couldn't chase down sealed the comeback 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.

This is not only Sharapova's third Stuttgart title but also the 30th overall of her career. It's also the first time Sharapova has won a tournament three years in a row.

Based on her results, Sharapova will remain ranked in the top ten. The win, and this week, also continue Sharapova's impressive clay court winning record. Sharapova remains the top active player with the best overall winning percentage on clay.
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