BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – Maria Sharapova claimed her 34th career title and closed the gap on the No 1 ranking with a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 win over Ana Ivanovic on Saturday in the Brisbane International final.
The top-seeded Sharapova raced to 4-1 lead and had set points in the 11th game but No 2-seeded Ivanovic fought back to take the hour-long set in a tiebreaker.
Sharapova earned early service breaks in the next two sets and held for victory, giving her the chance to overhaul Serena Williams for top spot in the rankings depending on results at the Australian Open, starting Jan 19.
Roger Federer has a chance to go into the Australian Open with 1,000 career match wins to his credit after beating fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2 on Saturday to reach the final of the Brisbane International.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion came into the 2015 season with 996 wins and has had three more on the way to Sunday’s final, where he’ll meet third-seeded Milos Raonic.
He has a 7-1 win-loss record against the 24-year-old Canadian, who served 34 aces to grind out a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) win over second-seeded Kei Nishikori in the other semifinal.
Only Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl have won more than 1,000 matches. The third-seeded Raonic appeared to grow in confidence as the match progressed against US Open finalist Nishikori, earning three match points with an ace in the third tiebreaker and then clinching it after 2 1/2 hours with a stunning forehand service return.
Raonic said he’ll be relying again on his serve, hoping to emulate the form that earned a win over Federer in Paris last year.
It was his second win in six matches against Nishikori. Neither player dropped serve in the match, meaning Nishikori exited the tournament without being broken in a service game.
Eventually, though, the quick points Raonic was able to pick up on his booming serve made the difference.