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Sharapova secures biggest clay title

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Originally published on: 16/05/11 10:35

With all eyes on Novak Djokovic as he extended his incredible unbeaten run to 39 matches in Rome, Maria Sharapova made a polished return to form in the women’s event.

The 24-year-old Russian defeated Samantha Stosur 6-2 6-4 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia to claim the third – and biggest – clay court title of her career and her 23rd WTA crown in total.

“I’m so happy to be the champion,” said a jubilant Sharapova. “It means so much to me to add this title to the ones I already have. Rome is such a special place and I’ve dreamed of holding up this trophy. There are a lot of tournaments coming up, and this is a great start to everything.”

Sharapova has won three of the four Grand Slams, but counts a semi-final run at Roland Garros (in 2007) as her best performance in Paris. But after a Rome run that saw her defeat world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki en route to the final, the 6’2” right-hander has put herself forward as a key contender for the French Open.

“I surely wasn’t the favourite going into a clay court event like this. To beat players who have had great results on clay means a lot to me. I may not be the best mover or best slider on clay, or the strongest player with the strongest legs, but there’s a lot more than that in tennis.”

Stosur, meanwhile, pulled off scalps of reigning Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone and No.4 seed Li Na en route to her first final since losing to the Italian in the final in Paris a year ago, but was unable to end a losing streak against Sharapova – falling to her eighth consecutive career defeat to the Russian.

“I’m disappointed to lose but as a whole, I thought Maria played quite well and I simply wasn’t at my best today” lamented the Australian. “It wasn’t the final I wanted, but it’s been a great week and each week I played in Europe I got a bit better.

“It’s what you want heading into a grand slam.”

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