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Sharapova beats Cibulkova at Amelia Island, wins 1st clay-court title

Sharapova beats Cibulkova at Amelia Island, wins 1st clay-court title

Maria Sharapova overcame five double-faults and 33 unforced errors to beat Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7), 6-3 Sunday and win the Bausch & Lomb Championships.
The top-seeded Russian became the first player on the WTA Tour to win three times in 2008. She also won the Australian Open and at Doha.
"I've been fortunate that I could start the clay season early and that I could get a win and my first title on clay, which is exciting," she said.
Sharapova improved to 22-1 this year, earned a crystal vase and $95,500 (euro60,300), and gained valuable experience on clay. She hopes it carries over to the Family Circle Cup in South Carolina next week and to the French Open in May.
"This is definitely a big plus," she said.
Cibulkova, an 18-year-old Slovakian playing in her first WTA Tour final, had plenty of chances to claim an upset. She led 4-2 in the first-set tiebreaker before making two unforced errors that enabled Sharapova to recover.
"I had a lot of chances," said Cibulkova, who finished with 22 unforced errors. "I missed so many easy shots. I made quite stupid mistakes today. If you want to beat (a player like Sharapova), you can't make this many mistakes."
She also led 2-1 in the second set before summoning a physio to have her left thigh wrapped. Cibulkova believed she pulled a muscle, slowing her mobility and prompting her to try to end points early to limit running.
Sharapova took advantage, working her opponent side to side and winning five of the final six games.
Cibulkova said the injury and fatigue factored into her sluggishness after the opening set. Sharapova, meanwhile, was rested after getting by Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals on a walkover. Davenport withdrew Saturday after waking up with a fever and feeling sick.
That gave Sharapova a day off after needing a combined six hours to win her previous two matches.
"Obviously, a big advantage," Sharapova said. "It's a lot easier on the body just practicing for an hour than going out and playing a match against a tough opponent."
The walkover was just one of many strange things that happened to Sharapova during the week. She got presented with a bag of popcorn during an on-court interview, then got denied permission to use the restroom by the chair umpire in one match.
"And on top of that, I was lucky and fortunate that I could scrap my way through those two tough matches," Sharapova said. "I was playing from behind in both of them. At the end of the day, I'm leaving this tournament as a champion. I guess that's a good thing. I can't complain."