BEIJING, China – Maria Sharapova conjured up some of her three-setter magic in the final of the China Open on Sunday, rallying past Petra Kvitova for the Premier Mandatory-level title, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
Sharapova cruised through to the final without dropping a set, and after tucking the first set away with no drama, it looked as though that trend was going to continue. But the No.3-seeded Kvitova started finding the mark on her huge serve and groundstrokes from the start of the second set, striking 15 winners to just nine unforced errors to take it in 43 minutes and push the title match to a decider.
The No.4-seeded Sharapova would strike back in the third though, racing out to a 3-0 lead and, after missing her first match point opportunity at 5-2 with an inside out forehand into the net, serving the match out at love at 5-3, finishing it on a big serve that drew a Kvitova backhand into the net.
“It was a bit of an up-and-down match I’d say – maybe not the best out of the tournament,” Sharapova said in her press conference. “But it’s never easy playing against Petra. You don’t always quite get a good rhythm. She goes for a lot of shots, very deep, and she’s a very good, confident player.
“I knew she’d been on a roll in the last couple of weeks. It’s probably the toughest opponent you can face in a final, that’s had that success, yet you just want to focus on your side, what you do best.
“She became the more aggressive player in the second set. I think I took a few too many steps back and let her play that way. But I was able to lift my game again in the third and come out with a win.”
It was an even more impressive rebound for Sharapova given she fell early in Wuhan last week.
“It was a disappointing result for me in Wuhan,” she said. “I thought I was ready for the tournament and wanted to compete. I just didn’t end up with a positive result. Within the time frame of only a couple of days until my first round here, I just had to settle down a bit. Sometimes it just takes a few little things to change things around – maybe some of those results ultimately get you to this position.
“I’m proud I just took a couple of days and did the work I could, and changed the result here.”
Sharapova now has four WTA titles this year – Stuttgart, Madrid, Roland Garros and Beijing – which ties her for second-most this year alongside Ana Ivanovic. Serena Williams leads the tour with six.
Additionally, the Russian will rise from No.4 to No.2 on the WTA Rankings, trailing only Williams.
Kvitova was probably a little tired on the day – she went all the way to the title in Wuhan last week and extended that unbeaten run to the final here – but she was as gracious a runner-up as ever.
“Yeah, I was tired, but it was a final, and every time I’m playing a final, I’m giving everything I have inside,” Kvitova commented. “What I did today was a great battle. It was small things and small points that made the difference in the end. I had some chances, but Maria just didn’t let them go.
“She just played really well. And we played two and a half, so I hope the fans enjoyed it too.”