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Sharapova retains Birmingham title

June 13, 2005 13:47 IST

Maria Sharapova fired a warning to her Wimbledon rivals on Sunday, out-gunning Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to win the DFS Classic in Birmingham for the second year running.

It was at this sedate setting in England's second city last year that she began a journey that culminated in her fairytale crowning as champion at the grasscourt Grand Slam.

The fact that she has repeated the first half of that double despite suffering from a cold and aching limbs augurs well for her return to the All England Club.

"I've played five tough matches with opponents pushing me and I came through, so I'm going to take a lot of confidence from that," said the 18-year-old world number two who was pushed to a deciding set for the third time this week.

As against Australia's Samantha Stosur and Eleni Daniilidou of Greece in previous rounds, however, she found the extra gears when she needed and never looked in danger of losing.

"I just went for my shots in the third set, and tried not to worry too much," said Sharapova after claiming her 10th career title and 17th consecutive victory on grass.

"It's a great feeling to win here again, I've not felt my best but I've battled through."

The third-seeded Jankovic, who had reached the final without dropping a set, was overwhelmed in the opening set as she vainly attempted to match Sharapova's baseline power.

All she ended up doing was loading the bullets for the Russian to fire them whizzing past her into the corners.

She proved she has some useful grasscourt tools in the second set, however. After the first six games all went with serve she produced some inspired tennis to break Sharapova.

The Russian shot some angry glances at her watching father Yuri, momentarily looking a little confused as errors began flying off her racket.

Jankovic punished Sharapova's inability to put away a simple volley as she held for 5-3 with a rasping backhand winner.

Sharapova recovered from 0-30 down to win the next game but Jankovic would not be denied a third set, serving out confidently to take the set 6-4.

Jankovic, the world number 20, needed treatment on a thigh strain at the start of the third set and after returning to the court she quickly came under a barrage of power play.

Hitting the ball with renewed vigour, Sharapova clenched her fists and screamed "come on" after breaking to lead 3-1.

Another belting forehand winner two games later produced a second break and Sharapova made no mistake, serving out the match to claim the $31,000 first prize.


Martyn Herman
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