Maria Sharapova collected a much-needed claycourt title in the Rome final on Sunday, putting her solidly into the conversation entering Roland Garros in a week’s time.
The Russian former French Open champ had only two claycourt appearances under her belt in the run-up to Roland Garros, losing in the first round at Stuttgart, and in Madrid stopped in the semifinals by fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.
On Sunday at the Italian Open Sharapova was facing another non-Top 5 opponent like Kuznetsova who nonetheless had a hot hand on the clay, fighting from a set down to defeat Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro, who ran out of gas in the third set 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Suarez Navarro broke to start the third set, but had nothing left in the tank, a consequence of more than 2-1/2 hours on the court, coming off a three-set semifinal, and the Spaniard being the player with most wins on the WTA tour this year.
It was the third Rome title for Sharapova (2015,’12-11), and will take her from 3 to No. 2 on the WTA Rankings, overtaking Simona Halep.
Suarez Navarro posted the biggest win of her career during the week over the No. 2-ranked Halep in the semis from a set down, one of three Top 10 wins for the Spaniard during the week.
She falls to 0-3 in finals this year and to 1-8 for her career, but will rise to a career-high No. 8 entering the French Open.
“I’ve been practicing really hard during the whole season, and I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Suarez Navarro said. “I’m playing more aggressively, which is important when you’re playing the top players.”
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