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Superb Sharapova takes U.S. title

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NEW YORK -- Maria Sharapova showed grit, firepower and the ability to come up big when it counted most to whip Justine Henin-Hardenne and capture the U.S. Open in straight sets in New York on Saturday.

The 19-year-old Russian defeated world number two Henin-Hardenne 6-4 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

She did it by displaying the tenacity normally seen by her more seasoned rival.

When Henin-Hardenne punched a match-ending forehand into the net, Sharapova fell to her knees and held her head in her hands while the crowd of nearly 24,000 roared its approval.

The title marked the second grand slam of Sharapova's career, following her remarkable Wimbledon run in 2004.

"I experienced it two years ago, and I knew that I wasn't done, I had a lot more in me," she said. "That was just the beginning.

"This is not just preparation that happened a couple weeks before the tournament; this is preparation that I've done ever since I was a little girl."

Henin-Hardenne, the 2003 champion playing in her fourth grand slam final of the year, broke Sharapova's serve in the second game of the match to take a 2-0 lead.

But Sharapova broke the Belgian in the next game to get back on serve and never let up. Henin-Hardenne never had another break point, the victim of Sharapova's laser-like groundstrokes at the most crucial times.

Much better

"I think she played much better than I did," said Henin-Hardenne. "I gave her too much time to organize her game. I played too short. Not aggressive enough.

"She didn't give me a lot of opportunities. I tried to keep fighting on every point, but she was just the best tonight."

Sharapova broke Henin-Hardenne in the ninth game of the match to take a 5-4 lead before serving out the set.

The second set remained on serve until Sharapova registered the only break, taking a 4-3 lead after two faulty forehands from Henin-Hardenne.

Sharapova had too much in her arsenal for Henin-Hardenne, successfully landing 72 percent of her first serves, blasting 20 winners on top of five aces.

Sharapova enjoys the moment of triumph when she clinches victory and the title.

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