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Ana lost a heartbreaking three set battle to world No.9 Maria Sharapova in the final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. The 26-year-old led the defending champion 6-4, 3-1 but eventually fell to a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 defeat in two hours and three minutes.
Today’s contest proved once more that an entire match can be decided in a couple of key points and unfortunately for Ana, she could not convert those in the second set.
After having won the opening set with great supremacy (she had set points at 5-0), Ana held a 3-1 lead in the second act and she was on the verge of surging into a 4-1 advantage, when she was 40-30 up in the fifth game. Sadly, the world No.12 threw in her very first double fault of the match at this moment and she was ultimately broken by the Russian some instants later.
Nonetheless, Ana quickly put that disenchantment behind her and she attacked the Sharapova serve in the next game. She enforced a break point to re-establish the gap but also this time, the world No.9 escaped miraculously.
Ana unleashed a forehand which would have been a winning shot in 99 per cent of the cases but, against all odds, Sharapova managed to catch the ball a couple of meters outside the tramlines and score on the counter-attack with a stunning backhand on the run.
The momentum had completely shifted and the Russian was building her way back into the match step-by-step. Sharapova won four straight games and sailed through to wrap up the set, despite Ana hitting six aces and ending at a +5 winners-to-unforced errors ratio.
The four-time Grand Slam champion appeared to save the best for last and she overpowered Ana from the first exchanges of the decider. Sharapova now took a 3-1 lead and as Ana gifted her a double break advantage by serving two double faults in game five, the Russian captured her third straight title on the Stuttgart soil.
Ana had enjoyed the majority of the support throughout the match and she received an extremely loud and affectionate ovation from the crowd prior to the trophy presentation.
"I'm speechless," the former world No.1 told the crowd. "Thank you so much."
"From the first moment it was always a close match," Ana said. "It was always a few close balls to decide each game, and it went on the whole match. In the second set she definitely went for those big shots, though, and she made some amazing points.
"She's just a great player, and that's what happens when you play against great players in big matches like this. You need to use your opportunities.
"But there's always next time."
Ana’s next tournament is the Mutua Madrid Open, which begins in Spain on Saturday.
By Joeri Moerman