China’s Li Na upheld her top seeding in the AEGON Classic final on Sunday in Birmingham, England, defeating former Wimbledon champion and No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova 7-5, 6-1.
It was the first title this year for Li and the third of her career, returning her to the Top 10 on the WTA Tour Rankings. For Sharapova, who has struggled to regain her top form since shoulder surgery, the loss dropped her to 2-2 career in Birmingham grasscourt finals, also losing to Jelena Jankovic in 2007.
“I won because I hit the ball flatter today and it makes it easier to win points on grass,” Li said. “I had a good start to the year and that’s important. If you play well in the beginning of the year, it gives you more confidence for the rest of the year.”
Sharapova said the event was mission accomplished in terms of picking up enough grasscourt tournament play entering Wimbledon in a week’s time.
“I came here to play as many matches as I could on grass, and I’ve played opponents with different types of game,” Sharapova said. “I would have loved to win but she was the better player today and she did many things better than me. She returned great. I put her under no pressure whatsoever on her serve.”
Li entered the final with the memory of beating the former No. 1-ranked Russian at this event last year. Sharapova entered the final via a shaky three-set semifinal win over unheralded U.S. collegiate Alison Riske.
This week the WTA Tour travels to the Unicef Open in ‘s-hertogenbosch, Netherlands, for the final tune-up before Wimbledon.
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