Sharapova lifts trophy in rainy Rome
May 20, 2012 -- Updated 1912 GMT (0312 HKT)
Maria Sharapova won the 26th title of her career after beating Li Na in three sets
- Maria Sharapova beats Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) to win Italian Open
- Deciding tiebreak delayed by 2 hours because of rain in Rome
- Men's final between Nadal and Djokovic postponed until Monday
- Sharapova heads to French Open with two clay-court titles this year
(CNN) -- Maria Sharapova beat Li Na in three sets to defend her Italian Open title in Rome on Sunday in a bizarre match played in sometimes heavy rain and amid the distraction of football fans gathering nearby.
Sharapova was 6-4 4-0 down but fought back to take the match into a deciding tiebreak -- after saving a match point at 6-5 in the third set.
By the time the tiebreak came around, the rain was falling heavily, making conditions unplayable, and it even started to rain again when the players returned two hours later to complete the match.
Sharapova eventually won it 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) and the two players burst out laughing when they shook hands at the net.
"It was a crazy match," Sharapova said. "Either one of us could have won it. There really is no loser."
The men's final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was postponed until Monday because of the weather -- prompting some fans to throw objects onto the court in disgust.
Nearby, Napoli and Juventus fans were gathering for the Italian Cup final at the nearby Stadio Olimpico, and the final was punctuated by the sound of fireworks going off and police helicopters flying overhead.
It was like playing a football match in the rain
"The match was a joke, it was like playing a football match in the rain," said Li, who came close to her first title since winning the French Open almost a year ago.
"Even when we were sent off court, you had to still concentrate for every second, it was tiring for both players.
"You could not relax. It was tense. When we came back out, she was the tougher player. 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."
Sharapova heads to Roland Garros with a second clay-court title of the year under her belt. Not traditionally a threat on the slow surface, the world No. 2 has only lost once on clay in 2012 -- to Serena Williams.
"This is a great win for me going into Roland Garros," Sharapova said. "It will be nice to have a week off now, after playing three tournaments in the last four weeks. I'll have to time to recover, mentally and physically."
Sharapova can complete a career Grand Slam if she wins in Paris.
Part of complete coverage on
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 1014 GMT (1814 HKT)
After two decades dedicated to the game, Amelie Mauresmo wants a second life -- one away from tennis.
Almost five years to the day after reducing Roger Federer to tears at the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal shed a few in his own loser's speech.
February 2, 2014 -- Updated 0248 GMT (1048 HKT)
Li Na outperformed Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open, but can she now surpass the Russian as the world's richest female athlete?
Roger Federer may have lost again to Rafael Nadal in the business end of a grand slam, but he can take some heart from yet another record says CNN's Will Edmonds.
January 21, 2014 -- Updated 1358 GMT (2158 HKT)
Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg, Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker -- today's tennis stars are teaming up with past legends of the game.
January 15, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
Can't stand the heat of the first tennis grand slam of 2014? Then you clearly haven't been doing enough Bikram yoga.
After nearly a decade without any real change at the top of men's tennis, CNN's Will Edmonds looks at next generation of future stars.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
Ana Ivanovic is still seeking to rediscover the form that took her to the top of the rankings -- but she has found a new lease of life.
January 6, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
As a teen sensation, Bernard Tomic had the tennis world at his feet -- but he's in danger of blowing it, says Australian great Pat Rafter.
December 31, 2013 -- Updated 1532 GMT (2332 HKT)
Roger Federer becomes the latest tennis star to turn to a former legend for help, adding his "childhood hero" Stefan Edberg to his coaching team.
December 20, 2013 -- Updated 1750 GMT (0150 HKT)
CNN's Open Court meets the three grand slam winners of 2013 and asks who will rule next year?
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1517 GMT (2317 HKT)
South Africa may just have found another Paralympian to inspire a nation -- and perhaps the world.
Today's five most popular stories