This was just what Maria Sharapova needed. With a week to go before she tries to defend her Roland Garros title, the 5-time Major winner captured her first clay court championship of the year at the 2015 Internazionali BNL d’Italia. It’s her second overall title of the season, following her triumph at the Brisbane International back in January. In the ensuing months Masha has suffered some surprising losses, including dropping her first match in both Miami and Stuttgart. Granted, her loss in Stuttgart was against eventual champion Angelique Kerber. However, as the 3-time defending champion there, that was still a bad loss for Sharapova. Coming into Rome, Masha had slipped to world number 3 behind new #2 Simona Halep. Since the seedings for Roland Garros would be based on the rankings following Rome it was preferable for Sharapova to get back to world number 2 and ensure she would potentially meet Serena Williams only in the final of the season’s second Major. Winning Rome would be a bonus. Masha did both. By reaching the Rome final while Halep fell in the semis to Carla Suarez Navarro, Sharapova was guaranteed the #2 ranking. Carla played some of her best tennis this week, taking out Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard. She had Masha fighting to stay with her the first two sets. Suarez Navarro was presented many chances to take control of the match but ultimately wore down physically under a constant bludgeoning attack by Sharapova. When she isn’t battling nagging injuries, Masha is one of the most highly conditioned athletes on tour. As games and sets go by she keeps coming and coming and coming. Opponents often just simply run out of gas in the end. Such was the case here as Sharapova sprinted away in the final set to defeat Suarez Navarro, 4-6 7-5 6-1. It’s Masha’s 35th WTA singles title, her 11th clay court title and 3rd Internazionali BNL d’Italia title.
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3 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 4-6 7-5 6-1 vs 10 Carla Suarez Navarro)