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Maria Sharapova beats Li Na to retain Rome title

ROME (AP) – Maria Sharapova successfully defended her Italian Open title Sunday, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) in a wild match in which play was twice interrupted by rain and the red clay turned to mud.

“The match was a joke,” Li Na said. “It’s tough to play in such heavy rain and then you go and rest for two hours and then play again in heavy rain. … But I still have positive things to take away. She was just stronger and tougher.”  Li appeared on course for victory when she surged to 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 win when it began to drizzle. The second-seeded Russian took a 4-1 lead in the third, but Li fought back to win four straight games to lead 5-4. Both held serve the rest of the way, forcing a tiebreaker.  After waiting out the rain for two hours in the locker room, the third set was over in five minutes. Sharapova completed the victory in 2 hours, 52 minutes…

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