UPDATE 11.50pm: Top seed Maria Sharapova has made the perfect start to her Australian Open preparation by downing fellow former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic to claim the Brisbane International women’s single title.
World No.2 Sharapova sounded a warning ahead of the opening grand slam event of the year when she overcame early resistance to overpower the Serbian 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 to claim her 34th career title on Saturday.
Later, five-time grand slam singles and nine-time grand slam doubles champion Martina Hingis made it a successful Brisbane debut capturing the women’s double title with Sabine Lisicki.
The Swiss-German duo came from a break down in the second set to hold off the French-Slovenian partnernship and No.4 seeds Caroline Garcia and Katerina Srebotnik 6-2 7-5.
It is another shot in the arm for Sharapova ahead of another assault on the Australian Open, which she won in 2008, beating Ivanovic in the final.
But it was more pain for second seed Ivanovic, in more ways than one.
Nursing an abdominal complaint that forced her to withdraw from her Brisbane doubles quarterfinal this week, world No.7 Ivanovic called for a 10-minute time-out with a trainer after conceding set point in the second with a double fault.
The Brisbane International final marked the first time the pair had met Down Under since the 2008 Australian Open final.
Five-time grand slam champion Sharapova, 27, extended her head-to-head record against Ivanovic to 10-4.
It ensured she extended her remarkable habit of winning at least one title a year since 2003.
Sharapova had dropped just nine games in her three Brisbane matches to get to her 56th WTA final.
And she looked set to maintain that dominance by racing to a 3-1 first set lead.
However, Ivanovic broke back in the seventh as Sharapova’s service game fell apart.
The Russian endured seven double faults, 27 unforced errors and registered a lousy first serve percentage of 38 per cent as Ivanovic held her nerve to clinch the first set in just over an hour.
But Sharapova still jumped to a 3-1 lead in the second as her first-serve radar returned.
She went on to clinch it in 48 minutes as Ivanovic called for her trainer.
True to form, Sharapova again led 3-1 in the third before the pair exchanged breaks in four straight games with Ivanovic saving two match points.
But the Russian finally held her nerve – and serve – to close out the match in more than two and a half hours on Pat Rafter Arena.
Sharapova later remained coy on what the win meant for her confidence ahead of the opening grand slam.
“I came into this final expecting a tough match,” she said.
“I wanted to win in two sets. But I am happy with the win – that was always the plan.
“But I love starting here (Brisbane). I couldn’t have asked for a better preparation.”
Meanwhile, Ivanovic played down any injury concerns ahead of the Australian Open.
“I had the tape on my stomach muscle from the previous day… and because of the humidity and heat it was coming off so I needed to re-tape,” she said of her timeout.
“I felt it (injury), but it was fine.”
Ivanovic was hardly discouraged before the Australian Open despite the loss.
“This year I really want to make a push at it,” she said of her grand slam plans.
“Of course it’s tough. Everyone aims for the same thing.
“I really have to put my head down and work hard for each match.”
> Watch women’s final highlights (only available outside Australia):