Beijing: Maria Sharapova overcame a fierce challenge from Petra Kvitova on Sunday to win the China Open, her first title since she claimed victory at Roland Garros earlier this year.
It was a battling performance from the Russian world number four, who will rise to number two in the rankings following her hard-fought 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win in Beijing, Kvitova's first loss in nine games.
The fourth seed appeared to have carried into the final the determination she showed in her powerful 6-0, 6-4 semi-final defeat of Serbian world number nine Ana Ivanovic.
Kvitova, the world number three, broke serve in the first game, but Sharapova fought back to force three break-points in the fourth, before deservedly breaking serve at the next opportunity.
With Sharapova at 5-4 ahead, Kvitova dragged two cross-court shots wide to give her opponent the set.
But the Czech 24-year-old was dominant in the second set, racing to a 4-1 lead as she forced her opponent to stretch for a series of powerful baseline drives that were beyond reach.
Sharapova broke serve in the sixth game by forcing the left-handed Kvitova to miss-hit a fiercely struck drive to her right.
But the 27-year-old then double-faulted to hand a 5-2 lead to Kvitova, who claimed the next game to set up the decider.
Sharapova was then at her ruthless best, taking two serves from Kvitova before a third daring attempt in the eighth game with the scores at 5-2 in her favour.
The marathon nine-minute duel saw Kvitova rescue a match point before closing out the game.
But Sharapova concluded her gritty show of force by taking all the points in her final service game to seal her fourth title of the year.
- 'Great battle' -
"After exchanging breaks in the first set, I was happy. I felt like I stepped it up," Sharapova said.
"I started returning quite well, reading her serve a little bit. She became the more aggressive player in the second set. I think I took a few too many steps back and let her be that way, let her play that way.
"I was kind of happy that I was able to lift my game again in the third and come out with a win."
The victory was Sharapova's sixth over Kvitova in the eight games they have previously played, with the Russian winning the last four meetings before Sunday's final.
Sharapova's previous titles in 2014 came in Stuttgart and Madrid in the lead up to her French Open victory, her fifth Grand Slam title.
She crashed out the US Open to eventual runner-up Caroline Wozniacki in the last 16, and was defeated by Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets at the same stage at the Wuhan Open last week.
Kvitova, meanwhile, won the inaugural tournament, her third title of the year. But she will drop from third to fourth in the rankings after failing to beat Sharapova in Beijing and extend her unbeaten run in China.
However, she took heart from the way she battled through the gruelling two hour 28 minute match.
"What I did today I think was great battle. It was small things, small points that make the difference in the end," she said.
"I had little bit of chances... I think it was great tennis. Played two and a half (hours), so I hope the fans enjoyed it as well.