Maria Sharapova sits in the Porsche sports car she won after beating Serbia's Ana Ivanovic in the final of the Stuttgart Grand Prix on Sunday. - AFP
STUTTGART (AFP): Maria Sharapova claimed a hat-trick of Stuttgart titles after coming from behind to win a three-set battle royal with Ana Ivanovic in Sunday's final.
Having won the 2012 and 2013 titles here, the 27-year-old Sharapova was made to work hard for her 13th consecutive win on Stuttgart's clay-courts for the 30th final win of her career before over-powering Ivanovic to claim a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory in just over two hours.
"That was a tough bit of work," said Sharapova, who has won all four Grand Slam titles.
"I have always believed in my chances and the fighting spirit is something that comes from within me."
This was the first time Sharapova has claimed a third title at an individual tournament and comes on the back of last year's shoulder injury.
"This time around it's been extremely tough, that's why this win is so special," admitted Sharapova.
The Russian collects the winners cheque of US$133,896 (RM440,000) and a brand-new sports car.
"I will need to build a new garage to get all the cars in," she joked as she collected her third Porsche sports car in as many years from the tournament director.
It is the Russian's first clay-court tournament in her build-up to the French Open, having lost to Serena Williams in last year's final.
"We have seen what a great player Maria is," admitted Ivanovic.
Having been taken to three sets by the Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova in her first-round match, Russia's Sharapova had swept into the final with straight set wins over compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, top-seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, then Italian clay-court specialist Sara Errani in the semi-finals.
But Ivanovic, the ninth seed, made the statuesque Russian dig deep and the 26-year-old wasted no time asserting herself over Sharapova, racing into a a 5-0 lead in the first set before the defending champion responded, but the Serbian held her serve to take the first set.
Having won her previous tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, last month, Ivanovic went 3-1 up in the second but the match's momentum turned against her when Sharapova broke her, then fought her way back to take the set.
Ivanovic had been chasing her first win over the Russian since the 2007 French Open semi-final, when Ivanovic went on to lose to Justine Henin in the final, but the Serbian ran out of steam and sixth seed Sharapova showed her experience to win 11 of the last 13 games.