Maria Sharapova successfully defended her Italian Open title Sunday, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in a three-hour rain-drenched match. Li had victory within sight with a 6-4, 4-0 lead, but Sharapova regained momentum and took the next eight games to win the set, tying the match at one set each and leading 2-0 in the third. This marks Sharapova's 26th WTA career title, and her second for this year.
The third set brought on the rain and both players were determined to win. Sharapova took a 4-1 lead, but Li fought back to win four straight games to lead 5-4. Li reached match point, with Sharapova serving, but the heavy rain began and Sharapova tied the match.
After play was suspended in a two-hour rain delay, Sharapova and Li took to the court to determine the champion in a tie-breaker.
"Today, the court was wet and slippery when we came back, but the umpire told us it was our decision, and both of us wanted to keep going," said Sharapova. "I don't mind the rain—I actually like it. One time, it helped me a lot, when I won Wimbledon."
Li has not won a WTA title since her win at Roland Garros a year ago. She is now looking to defend her title at next week's French Open.
"This is a great win for me going into Roland Garros," said Sharapova. "I know the level she played there last year and the level she can play on clay, the way she defends and moves around and gets herself back into position, she's just a great player on any surface really. So this gives me a lot of confidence."