Sharapova shocks Clijsters

Sharapova ends Clijsters run
By Reuters

07/08/2006 at 17:09Updated

Maria Sharapova shocked top seed Kim Clijsters 7-5 7-5 to win the Acura Classic on Sunday. In grabbing her first title on North American summer hard courts, Sharapova took down reigning U.S. Open champion Clijsters for the first time in five meetings.

"I hung in there during some amazing points in the second set," said the second-seeded Russian. "I had lost to her four times in a row, so I thought this might be my lucky day. It's amazing to get the title," she said after the one hour 48-minute contest.

Clijsters, who has been contending with a sore back, was broken four times in the first set, but continued to claw at Sharapova.

The Belgian fought off her first set point at 3-5 in a marathon rally that saw her paste a forehand crosscourt winner.

Clijsters scrapped back to 5-5, but could not maintain her momentum as Sharapova easily held to 6-5, and then broke the Belgian to win the set when the world number two committed a forehand error.

Both women stepped up their level in the second set, but Clijsters could never find the rhythm that led her to the Stanford title last week.

Sharapova easily held to lead 6-5 before Clijsters completely lost her way, committing a slew of errors to face three match points.

Sharapova missed a backhand return on the first one, but on the second, she gunned a backhand that kissed the baseline.

"I fought and tried to go for it, but after long points, it was hard to refocus," said Clijsters, who had her 24-match winning streak on North American hard courts broken. "I didn't feel that fresh out there."

Clijsters said Sharapova's game had matured.

"She wasn't going for her shots as much," the Belgian said. "That's where she's improved. In the past, when her game wasn't on, she was still trying to go for it.

"Today, she mixed it up a little more. You see how a player grows up and that's great."

Sharapova agreed that she has improved her point construction.

"Against her, you know you have to be patient," she said. "She gets to a lot of balls and comes up with greats shots defensively. I tried to take that away from her."