It didn't look good for Maria Sharapova at the start of the championship match at the Madrid Open yesterday. The Russian dropped the first set to 22-year-old Simona Halep 1-6, holding serve only one time.
However, somehow the 8th ranked world player, and former number one, put it together and took the next two sets 6-2, 6-3. The match served as retribution for last year's final, where Sharapova lost to American Serena Williams.
Sharapova has dominated on clay throughout her career. Since 2011, she is 47-3, all her losses came at the hand of Serena. Luckily for Sharapova, Williams did not play at the Madrid Open this year due to a leg injury.
The comeback started to brew in the second set with Sharapova's dominating ground strokes, which kept the Romanian running all over the court. Sharapova was subsequently able to break Halep's serve twice in the second set to tie the match. She then maintained that momentum in the deciding set to grab her first ever Madrid Open championship.
This was Sharapova's 32nd overall championship title. She said after the victory, "I came close last year, and I didn't have a great first set today, but I knew it wasn't over until the last point was played.” She added, "I don't know how I pulled it off."
— Sugarpova (@Sugarpova) May 11, 2014
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) May 11, 2014
Sharapova missed most of last year with a shoulder injury. However, she looked strong during the Madrid Open and should be a serious contender at next month's French Open, which is played on clay. Sharapova said at a news conference after the match, "I don't take these moments for granted because I know what it's like to be out and injured and trying to find your way back just to play tennis." The 27-year-old added, "So it doesn't matter if I'm playing on the moon or in Madrid, to be in the final position is an honor."
The victory brings Sharapova up a spot in the world rankings to number seven. On the men's side, Rafael Nadal captured his fourth Madrid Open championship after his opponent Kei Nishikori had to exit the match due to a back injury. Nadal was leading 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 when the match stopped.
Image via Wikimedia Commons