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Monday, October 23, 2006

Maria Sharapova makes history at Zurich Open

Maria Sharapova became the first Russian to win the Zurich Open, defeating Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 yesterday in the final. It was her first triumph in Zurich after she fell to Alicia Molik in the 2004 final, and brings her number of career titles to 14, including Wimbledon 2004 and the 2006 US Open.

Maria Sharapova

Maria was the obvious favorite of the Sunday final in Zurich. Her ranking is much higher than the ranking of the Slovak player and she had beaten Hantuchova in four of their six head-to-head matches before the Sunday triumph.

The Russian world number three took control of the first set almost from the start, with some blistering returns unsettling the Slovak and earning her three break points for 1-0. Hantuchova held, but then gave up her next service game to love with a double-fault. Sharapova broke to love a second time to lead 4-1 when Hantuchova made a backhand error when under no real pressure. A forehand error then gave Maria Sharapova a third break and the set, but a more aggressive Hantuchova made a more positive start to the second set, breaking Maria to lead 1-0.

That was enough to take the match to a third set, although Hantuchova had to survive a break point when leading 4-3 and five more as she struggled to close out the set at 5-4. Maria Sharapova once more asserted herself in the final set, raising her aggression levels and the quality of her serving to end with 10 aces. The Russian held two break points to lead 2-0 and then broke to lead 3-1 when Hantuchova made a forehand error, and she went on to capture the title with an ace.

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