Maria Sharapova beat Li Na 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday to defend her WTA Porsche Grand Prix title in a final that brought together the last two French Open champions.
The top-seeded Russian swept to her second title of the year after winning in Indian Wells, and became the first player to defend the Stuttgart title since Lindsey Davenport in 2005.
”I thought it’d be the toughest match of the tournament, but I played my best tennis today,” Sharapova said. ”I was able to step it up.”
Sharapova used the Stuttgart tournament as her clay-court debut just like last season, when she went on to capture the French Open.
The second-seeded Li double-faulted on match point and had another one earlier in the final game, as Sharapova collected the 29th title of her career — and a sports car to go with it.
”I was under pressure on her return, she was aggressive,” Li said.
Sharapova, ranked No. 2 in the world, had to fight through three long three-setters to get to the championship match, but there was little drama in the final.
The Russian opened with a break and went up 4-1 before Li could pull back one break. But that was not enough and Sharapova closed out the set with a service winner.
”I tried to put it together from the start,” Sharapova said.
Li, who became the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam title with her victory at Roland Garros in 2011, simply didn’t have enough consistency to threaten Sharapova, and the Russian gained the key break in the seventh game of the second when Li sent a volley wide.
”I’m a little sad to lose but it’s a pretty good start to my clay-court season,” Li said.
Sharapova now holds a 9-5 career edge over Li, who beat the Russian in the semifinals of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year.
It was Sharapova’s 16th consecutive win on clay, dating back to Rome last year. Since Stuttgart last year, she is 23-1 on clay. Her only loss was to Serena Williams in Madrid.