Miami: Maria Sharapova is pleased with the state of her game as she prepares to begin her clay-court preparations for defending the French Open title, even though the Russian star still has no title at Miami.
World No. 2 Sharapova led by a set and a break before world No. 1 Serena Williams battled back, capturing the final 10 games on her way to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory in Saturday's WTA Miami hardcourt final.
Williams won her sixth Miami crown and denied Sharapova her first Miami title, dropping the Russian to 0-5 in Miami finals. Williams has beaten Sharapova 11 times in a row and leads their overall rivalry 12-2.
But after running off 11 match wins in a row overall before the loss, including a victory at Indian Wells without Williams in the field, Sharapova has greater confidence in her game and her chances to defend at Roland Garros.
"When you experience such a nice moment in your career, to be able to come back there and to play on that court again where you lifted the trophy, won the match point, it's always special and meaningful," Sharapova said.
"I'll treat it as any other title that maybe I haven't won and really want to win because I would love to win it again."
She had hoped to collect a first Miami crown but was pleased that she took a set off Williams for the first time since the 2008 quarter-finals on clay in Charleston, South Carolina.
"It's tough to lose in the final stage because you've worked so hard to get there, no doubt about that," Sharapova said.
"But it is a really nice stage to be at. It's a nice opportunity that you're giving yourself. The more that I give myself this opportunity, the better chance that I have of winning. That's what I have to think about.
"Within a tournament there are a lot of ups and downs and I'm really happy with what I have been able to achieve in the last month."
Williams praised Sharapova's effort even as she avoided losing to the Russian for the first time since 2004.
"Maria played really the best I have seen her play," Williams said. "She was moving unbelievable and she was hitting winners from everywhere.
"I feel like she lifted her level."
Sharapova, however, saw Williams stretch her game when faced with the possibility of defeat.
"That's why she's No. 1 in the world. She's really capable of doing that," Sharapova said. "I was controlling a lot of the points in the first set and the beginning of the second. Then toward the end, I wasn't there.
"I was losing a little bit of pace on my ball, which hurt me, and against a player like Serena, you can't really do that."
Williams will begin her clay season next week at Charleston, but unlike Sharapova she is not talking about taking the French Open trophy just yet.
"My goal is to win a match at Roland Garros this year, take it one at a time," Williams said.
"I love the French Open. I love the clay. I love sliding. Hopefully I can just keep winning matches on clay. I'll probably hit just a few tomorrow just to get sliding a little bit, because I have a match so soon."
Four-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, 25, is a semi-final loser at the Australian Open, Indian Wells champion and Miami runner-up this year just as she was in 2006 when she won her only US Open title.
"I like that," Sharapova said. "Let's write it down and put it in a pocket."
Story first published on: Sunday, 31 March 2013 12:34 IST