BRISBANE, Australia - Maria Sharapova won the 34th title of her career on Saturday when she outlasted Ana Ivanovic in the thrilling final match of the Brisbane International.
Sharapova won 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3, clinching victory in two hours and 38 minutes in front of a packed crowd at the steamy Pat Rafter Arena.
It was the 13th year in a row that the Russian has won at least one WTA title.
The match, played in typically hot and humid conditions in the Queensland capital, was the perfect Australian Open preparation for the two top seeds, who met in the Melbourne final in 2008.
"I came into this final expecting a tough match," Sharapova said.
"The matches we had last year were always very intense and high quality. That's what you expect in a final atmosphere.
"I love coming back here, starting here," she added.
"I played four good matches against very different types of opponents - couldn't have asked for better preparation." Sharapova started brilliantly and raced to a 4-1 lead before Ivanovic struck back and levelled the set.
She then took control of the tiebreak to strike first blood in the final.
Sharapova broke early in the second set and kept the advantage to level the match at one set apiece.
Ivanovic took a medical time out at the end of the set to have an abdominal strain re-taped and when she returned, Sharapova promptly broke and went ahead 3-1.
Ivanovic fought back once more to get the set back on serve, but some fierce groundstrokes from the world number two saw Sharapova break again, and this time there was no coming back for Ivanovic.
"I really thought it was a high quality match from the first moment on," Ivanovic said.
"There were not many unforced errors, I would say.
"The last two sets were a lot closer than maybe the score indicates. There were really a few points that decided it here and there.
"Now it's about recovery and getting the best possible preparation for Melbourne," she added.
"This was great week for me, a great way to start the season. I really hope I can keep the level and raise it next week in Melbourne."