Maria Sharapova wins Italian Open crown in Rome
Maria Sharapova recovered from a set and 4-0 down to beat Li Na and retain her Italian Open crown in Rome.
At 6-6 in the third and final set, the match was interrupted for more than two hours by rain, but Sharapova returned to win the decisive tie-break.
The 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) win over the French Open champion gave the Russian her 26th career title.
Sharapova now heads to Roland Garros looking for the title that would complete a career Grand Slam.
“The match was a joke, it was like playing a football match in the rain. Even when we were sent off court, you had to still concentrate for every second, it was tiring for both players.”
And the world number two will travel to Paris on the back of her second clay court title of the season, following victory in Stuttgart in April.
"It was a crazy match," said Sharapova. "Either one of us could have won it. There really is no loser."
With Sharapova looking flat in the opening stages, Li earned an early break which was enough for her to win the first set.
The Chinese then opened up a 4-0 lead in the second, only for Sharapova to reel off eight consecutive games to shift the momentum.
However, there was to be another twist, as Li fought back from 4-1 down to force the third-set tie break.
However, that was delayed by the rain, but when the players did return, it was Sharapova that prevailed.
"When we came back out, she was the tougher player," said Li. "But I take some positives away. It's getting close to Roland Garros and I think I hit the ball well. I also moved her around the court well.
"The match was a joke, it was like playing a football match in the rain.
"Even when we were sent off court, you had to still concentrate for every second, it was tiring for both players."