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Maria keeps looking to the future

This content was published 11 years ago. It may refer to a past edition of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Despite having just achieved her greatest win on clay, Maria Sharapova remained highly focused after the match. Minutes earlier she had cruised to the 23rd title in her career, defeating Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-2 in a one-sided final. Some of Sharapova’s service returns had to be seen to be believed, as she used her height to negate the Australian’s trademark kicking service which usually wins her so many points against other opponents, particularly on clay.

Having won three of the four Slams but always struggled on red dirt, this may well mark a watershed in Sharapova’s career. With the Williams sisters out, Kim Clijsters struggling to return from injury, the likes of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic flattering to deceive and rankings leaders Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva yet to prove themselves at the highest level, the stage is set for the Siberian to go deep at the French Open for the first time in her career.

But before that, there is a trophy to enjoy. “It has been a while since I won a title. I’ve gotten really close and got good results but winning this title in Rome means a lot to me,” said the world no.8 after the match. “I surely was not the favourite going into an event like this on clay and to play with players who have had great results on clay means a lot to me. I have beaten players that have had great results on clay and Sam has been in the French Open final. She is someone that knows this surface really well and I expected a really tough match today. I was really ready to fight from the start. I stepped in and tried to take time away as that, I think, is why she has such good results here. The clay gives her time to do so many things and create pace and plays great tennis, and I tried to take that away from her. I said this before and I will say it again: I feel better and better the way I am playing, and although I might not be the best mover on clay or the best slider or strongest player with the strongest legs, there is a lot more to these things in tennis and that is the reason why I won.”

For Stosur, it was obviously a disappointment. Despite the fact that she will be no. 8 in the world on Monday morning, she has only ever won two lower-ranking tournaments, and in her two big finals to date – last year’s French Open and then today at the Foro Italico – she has failed to produce her best tennis. “Maria played quite well and I simply was not at my best today,” the Australian regretted. “I got off to a very slow start. I struggled to begin with so all in all it was not the final that I wanted. To be honest when I woke up this morning I didn’t feel too good. Going out there it kind of hit me, and she hits the ball quite hard. My reactions were just not there and going down 4-0 against Maria is not the start that you want. Having said that, I did get myself back into the match in the second set and I felt like I had a few little opportunities where I could have got back even – you never know. Unfortunately I was not able to take advantage of this and the match was over.”

Nevertheless, Stosur can look back on a fine tournament, despite coming up short on the final day. “It has been a great week here and each week that I played here in Europe I have got a little bit better. It’s what you want heading into a Grand Slam. This a great event and I’ve played a lot of good matches. I can take some positives away and there is definitely that.”

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