ZURICH, Switzerland -- Maria Sharapova became the first
Russian to win the Zurich Open, defeating Daniela Hantuchova 6-1,
4-6, 6-3 Sunday in the final.
Sharapova, who won her fourth title this season, still has a
chance to finish the year as the top-ranked player. She'd need to
win next week in Linz, Austria, and at the season-ending WTA
Championships in Madrid.
Amelie Mauresmo, who withdrew from the Zurich Open with a
shoulder injury, and second-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne, who
hasn't played since mid-September because of a knee problem, still
lead the U.S. Open champion in the rankings.
Mauresmo leads Sharapova by 630 points, but many of the
Frenchwomen's points will expire before this season ends.
Henin-Hardenne would have to fail to reach the WTA final for
Sharapova to finish on top.
Neither Henin-Hardenne nor Mauresmo are expected to play before
"Becoming No. 1 is a huge achievement, but I don't personally
think ending the season as No. 1 is a huge deal," said Sharapova,
who was top-ranked in August 2005. "I honestly can't remember who
finished last year No. 1.
"You remember who won the Grand Slams and who has been No. 1,
not who finished the year No. 1."
Sharapova, who withdrew from the recent Kremlin Cup with a foot
injury, said she was playing through pain in Zurich. She picked up
her 14th career title, her other wins this season coming at the U.S. Open, in San
Diego and Indian Wells, Calif.
Hantuchova had to save three break points on her first serve
before Sharapova swept the next six games.
Both players took advantage of the on-court coaching, which is
allowed at this tournament, after the first set. Sharapova spoke to
coach Mike Joyce, while Hantuchova talked with her mother.
The motherly advice seemed to help. Hantuchova broke Sharapova's
opening serve in the second set and then saved five break points in
the final game to even the match.
"She told me to be a bit calmer and not go for the crazy shots,
to focus on what I had to do," Hantuchova said. "I felt I turned
it around well."
Before the final set, Sharapova took a bathroom break, and her
father appeared to follow. Hantuchova again spoke to her mother,
but it didn't prove to be as effective.
Sharapova broke to take a 3-1 lead in the final set, holding
serve and winning with an ace down the middle.
"It was weird having that letdown in the second set," said
Sharapova, who dropped only one set in Zurich and is 5-1 against
Hantuchova with five straight wins.
Hantuchova, who has only one career title, played in a final for
the first time in 14 months.