Sharapova prevails in another epic meeting with Radwanska
What a comeback.
Maria Sharapova put on a display of gutsy tennis to rebound and beat Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in their opening round-robin match at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global - an energy-sapping clash that lasted 2 hours 47 minutes - at the Indoor Stadium.
What made yesterday's achievement even more remarkable is that five-time world No. 1 Sharapova, currently ranked third, was playing her first match since her defeat by Serena Williams in the semi-finals of Wimbledon in July.
The Russian had to skip three tournaments because of a leg injury and withdrew from the Wuhan Open last month after injuring her left forearm.
Poland's Radwanska, meanwhile, had good momentum after winning the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo last month, and then the Tianjin Open two weekends ago.
Said Sharapova: "Matches like these take a few years out of your life. God knows what's happening with my hair now. It's a disaster. But I'm happy I'm through and, yeah, I'm going to feel it tomorrow and be a little bit tired, but hey, that's the game and I'm proud I'm able to get through.
"I felt I was able to take myself to another level physically, which I didn't expect I'd be able to."
There seems to be just something about Sharapova and Radwanska at the WTA Finals that produces epics. Last year, the two battled for 3 hours 9 minutes before Sharapova won 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2 at the same venue.
Two years earlier, in Istanbul, they duelled for 3 hours 12 minutes before Sharapova eventually won 5-7, 7-5, 7-5.
Even though the 28-year-old Russian entered last night's Red Group match with a 12-2 head-to-head record against Radwanska, she fell in her first set.
She stormed to a 3-0 lead in the second, though, suggesting her slow start was merely a little ring rust.
After Radwanska battled back, the Russian redoubled her efforts to push the tie to a decider.
Sharapova duly raced to a 5-2 lead in the third set, but appeared to lose steam, with a lack of match practice possibly catching up and preventing her from closing the match.
As both women began hitting stray shots, Radwanska closed the gap to 5-4.
But five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova showed her steel - and quality - to first deliver an inch-perfect lob over her opponent, and then a deft dropshot, to set up match point.
Sharapova eventually won when Radwanska sent her shot into the net.
Said Radwanska: "I definitely didn't use my chances.
"Even though she hasn't played a couple of months, she's always ready and in shape to play a really good match. I guess she was just better today."
BY THE NUMBERS
The closeness of the match between Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska is reflected by the percentage of first-serve points won. Sharapova, with 68 per cent (50 out of 73 serves), edged out Radwanska (43 from 64 serves) by only one percentage point.