(CNN) -- Kim Clijsters staved off a championship point before beating Maria Sharapova 2-6 7-6 6-2 in the final of the $2 million WTA tournament in Cincinnati.
The battle of the former world number one's was played in sultry and humid conditions and initially it was Sharapova who turned up the heat on her Belgian opponent.
Sharapova had to battle past fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her semifinal while Clijsters went through when Ana Ivanovic retired early in their last four clash.
But any thoughts Sharapova would be jaded from her longer night match were soon put to rest as she powered to four games in a row from 2-2 in the opener, including two breaks of service, to claim the first set.
It took just 42 minutes and reigning U.S. Open champion Clijsters was in trouble in the second as she dropped her service in the vital seventh game to fall 4-3 down.
Under darkening skies and with storms threatening, Sharapova rushed through her service game to lead 5-3.
She put fourth seed Clijsters under immediate pressure on her own service and worked a first match point with a thundering return which hit the baseline.
Clijsters bravely saved it before the storm finally broke and forced the players off at 40-all in the eighth game.
When they returned after a lengthy break it was Clijsters who came off best, winning the game and then breaking Sharapova to force a tiebreak which she claimed seven points to four.
With the momentum firmly behind her, Clijsters was dominant in the deciding set and two breaks of service saw her claim her third WTA title of the season in two and a half hours of riveting action.