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
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1517 GMT (2317 HKT)
South Africa may just have found another Paralympian to inspire a nation -- and perhaps the world.
November 26, 2013 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Marion Bartoli's tennis career had its ups and downs -- both personal and professional. Discover what has made the Wimbledon winner happy.
November 22, 2013 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Maria Sharapova has turned to her third coach of 2013 as she seeks to bounce back from shoulder problems.
November 21, 2013 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Hitting partner Sascha Bajin and coach Patrick Mouratoglou offer a glimpse into the life of the world No. 1.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Down and out in Paris, Serena Williams turned to a man who has helped her become more dominant than ever before.
November 20, 2013 -- Updated 1003 GMT (1803 HKT)
World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey tells CNN he doesn't think Novak Djokovic "has the faintest idea" what his organization does.
The Davis Cup can step up to a new level of popularity by following the example of football's top tournament, says CNN's Will Edmonds.
November 12, 2013 -- Updated 1546 GMT (2346 HKT)
A year that began with a fourth Australian Open title ended similarly triumphant for Novak Djokovic at the ATP Tour finale.
CNN's Will Edmonds says Serena Williams can match Steffi Graf's record haul of 22 grand slam titles following her U.S. Open triumph.
September 9, 2013 -- Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT)
Two years after losing part of her lung during a blood clot operation, U.S. Open champion Serena Williams insists playing tennis "is just fun now."
September 4, 2013 -- Updated 1130 GMT (1930 HKT)
Her doubles playing dad is the sporting star of the family, but Micaela Bryan's Twitter page is making the toddler a viral sensation.
Roger Federer is now in danger of diminishing his incredible tennis legacy, says CNN's Will Edmonds.
August 27, 2013 -- Updated 1107 GMT (1907 HKT)
Tennis parents don't have the best of reputations. Think Damir Dokic, John Tomic and Jim Pierce. However, Andy Murray's Mum is very different.
August 15, 2013 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
Marion Bartoli has retired from tennis with immediate effect, just six weeks after winning her first grand slam title at Wimbledon.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
When the women's singles champion at the U.S. Open picks up her $2.6 million check, she should spare a moment to thank Billie Jean King.
Today's five most popular stories