DOHA, Qatar -- Maria Sharapova claimed her second
title of the year and the 18th of her career when she defeated
unseeded Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 2-6, 6-0 in an all-Russian final at
the Qatar Open on Sunday.
The Australian Open champion, who extended her unbeaten run
this year to 14 matches, lost to Zvonareva in their last meeting
at Indian Wells 11 months ago.
After Sharapova dominated the opening
set, she found herself in trouble against her former top 10 opponent.
Playing in a packed 5,000-seat stadium, fourth seed
Sharapova made a dreadful start, dropping the opening game at
But she repaired the situation immediately, evening the match at 1-1
and then overwhelming her opponent with her deep groundstrokes
and powerful forehands.
Moving with increasing fluency, Sharapova's aggressive play forced a
number of errors from Zvonareva and allowed her to break twice
more for the set. It appeared as if she would continue on to
an easy victory.
But the second set saw a complete reversal.
A double-fault gave Zvonareva a break for 2-0 after
Sharapova had led the game 40-0. Sharapova's aggressive
groundstrokes forced the struggling favorite into a succession
Making just three unforced errors, Zvonareva dominated the
set and broke again to level the match on her fifth set point.
The pendulum swung again in the final set, as a determined
Sharapova raised her level once more, taking control from the
first game and surrendering just eight points in the remainder
of the match.
"I had so many opportunities in the beginning of the second
set but I didn't take them, and she's the type of opponent
that's going to play her best tennis when she's playing from
behind and has nothing to lose," said Sharapova.
"Her level just comes up, and mine dropped. I felt like my
energy was going down. I wasn't moving or hitting the same way,
and I think that first game of the third set was very important.
It gave me a lot of confidence."
Zvonareva agreed the beginning of the final set played a
crucial part in the outcome of the match.
"It was a tough one," said Zvonareva. "She started off
really well and I didn't really know what to do. She was really
aggressive and didn't give me a chance. Then I found my game a
little bit better and caused her trouble in the second.
"I think the first game of the third set was an important
game on my serve. I lost it and then she took a 3-0 lead and it
was really tough to stop her after that."
Sharapova earned a first-place prize of $414,000, the largest on the WTA Tour outside of the Grand Slams.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.