MELBOURNE, Australia -- Fifth seed Maria Sharapova won the Australian Open for the first time on Saturday, beating Ana Ivanovic in straights sets to claim her third Grand Slam title.
Maria Sharapova was delighted after bouncing back from last year's final defeat in Melbourne.
The 20-year-old Russian triumphed 7-5 6-3 in just over one and a half hours in scorching conditions to avenge her thrashing at the hands of Serena Williams in last year's final.
Sharapova did not drop a set in the season-opening Grand Slam event, in which she defeated the world's top-three players in a strong indication she is ready to make a bid to return to the No. 1 status she last held in August 2005.
Fourth seed Ivanovic tasted defeat for the second time in a Grand Slam final, but the Serb showed little of the nerves which beset her at the French Open last year.
The 20-year-old won the opening game, including one ace, but was broken in the fifth while Sharapova held Ivanovic to love in her own first three services.
However, Ivanovic broke back in the eighth game after Sharapova double-faulted twice as she won three straight games.
However, former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion Sharapova recovered to break Ivanovic again and served out the set after 49 minutes.
She won a vital break in the seventh game of the second set to go 4-3 ahead when Ivanovic hit the net with a forehand, and took the match on the Serbian's serve on her third match-point.
Sharapova, who lost 6-1 6-2 to American Williams last year, was delighted after an injury-hit 2007 saw her slide down the rankings.
"Last year was a pretty difficult year me. This is so much sweeter because when I was going through those setbacks I tried to remember what it was like to hold the Wimbledon trophy and the U.S. Open trophy," she said.
"To know that I was capable of doing it before and believe in myself that I'd be capable of doing it again some day. This is just incredible, if someone had told me in the middle of last year that I'd be standing on this stage in front of all you guys with the big one, I'd probably say forget it."
Ivanovic made 33 unforced errors compared to Sharapova's 15, but insisted she was happy with her performance.
"I really felt comfortable out there, I wasn't too nervous at all," she said. E-mail to a friend