CINCINNATI: Fourth-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova survived an erratic performance to win the Cincinnati WTA title, prevailing 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 over Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic.
Sharapova, 24, earned her second title of the season after her triumph in Rome. She improved on her runner-up finish to Kim Clijsters here last year and gave herself a momentum boost prior to the US Open, the final Grand Slam of the season that starts on August 29 in New York.
Not an easy ride
After an aggressive start that saw Sharapova take a 4-1 lead, Jankovic went on a roll, breaking the Russian three times and taking the opening set when Sharapova double-faulted. The shift recalled last year’s final, when Sharapova failed to convert three match points against Clijsters and ended up losing 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
Despite a stream of unforced errors - including a total of 11 double faults - Sharapova finally took the second set, winning the last five points of the tiebreaker.
The third set started with six straight breaks of serve before Sharapova held for a 4-3 lead. Jankovic double-faulted twice to surrender the next game, leaving Sharapova to serve out the match after two hours and 49 minutes.
“It’s been a great year for me so far,” said Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam champion who reached the final at Wimbledon last month. “I’m definitely proud I’ve gone further than last year.”
Murray prevails after Djokovic retires
Meanwhile, the final win for world number four Andy Murray was not as exciting as Novak Djokovic retired injured while trailing 6-4, 3-0.
The world number one conceded just his second defeat of the season against 57 victories as Murray clinched the ATP’s Cincinnati Masters title for the second time. Djokovic was hindered during the match by a sore right shoulder, a problem he had alluded to after his abbreviated victory over similarly ailing Tomas Berdych in the semi-final.
“Obviously when he started to slow down his serve toward the end of the first set it was going to be tough for him,” said Murray. “Sometimes things can warm up when you play, sometimes they get worse. I just tried to stay focused.”
Djokovic admitted that his shoulder felt worse than before but insisted he would be ready for the start of the US Open.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2011.