Maria Sharapova retained the Italian Open title on Sunday with a 4-6 6-4 7-6 (5) victory over Li Na in a match dominated by wild swings of momentum and interrupted twice by rain.
Li appeared to be on course for victory as she stormed into a 6-4,4-0 lead but 24 unforced errors from the French Open champion allowed Sharapova to take the next six games and the set.
Sharapova then seemed certain to cruise to victory when it began to drizzle. The Russian took a 4-1 lead in the third but Li fought back to win four successive games to take a 5-4 lead. Both held their serves the rest of the way and the match went into a tiebreak.
After waiting in the changing rooms for two hours because of the rain,the decider was over in five minutes as Li hit into the tramlines,handing Sharapova victory in 2 hours,52 minutes. Sharapova was ahead first in the match as Li hit the ball in the net to hand her the first break. However,Li broke straight back and did so again in the 11th game to take the set.
Li was in control as she broke to love and raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set,at one stage taking 15 points out of 17 as Sharapova struggled to deal with the ferocity of her strokes.
But the pressure seemed to get to Li and her game collapsed as Sharapova went on to win the next eight games. Li clawed her way back in when she got to 40-0 in the ninth game of the second set but Sharapova broke following a couple of unforced errors and two double faults and went on to successfully serve for the set.
Li managed to come back and level the final set as the rain lashed down in Rome. The match was delayed briefly at 5-5 and the players waited courtside for it to ease up slightly before play resumed.
Sharapova almost gifted the match to Li when an awful mistake saw her smash the ball into the net and hand her opponent a championship point. But Sharapova rescued it with a powerful forehand into the corner.
With the rain continuing to pour down,the players were asked if they wanted to continue. Both said they did,but were eventually forced off court before the tiebreak with the torrential rain turning the clay to mud.
Djokovic vs Nadal clash delayed
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic will defend his title against Rafael Nadal in the mens final. The start has been delayed because of the rain. Novak Djokovic swept past Roger Federer on Saturday to set up a Rome Masters final rematch with five-time winner Rafael Nadal. Top seed Djokovic ended Federers run of recent clay form,defeating the world number two and last weeks Madrid champion 6-2 7-6 (7/4) while Nadal reached a seventh Rome final with a 7-6 (8/6) 6-0 win over compatriot David Ferrer.
THE seventh seed Indian pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna crashed out after suffering a straight-sets defeat at the hands of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez. The Spaniards raced to a 6-4 6-1 win in one hour and five minutes in the semifinals. Bhupathi and Bopanna had their chances in the second set,getting two breakpoints but they squandered both. They dropped their serve thrice in the same set. Granollers and Lopez had also upset third seeds Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic in the quarter-finals.