STUTTGART: Maria Sharapova said she was happy to open her clay-court season by winning Stuttgart's WTA tournament as part of her French Open preparations and to break her losing streak in finals.
With the Madrid and Rome clay-court tournaments still to come before Roland Garros begins on May 27, the World No 2 said she still has plenty of work ahead of her as she bids to win the one Grand Slam which eludes her.
Having once described herself playing on clay as like 'a cow on ice', Maria was in impressive form here as she saw off US Open winner Samantha Stosur and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova en route to the final.
She blasted her way past subdued World No 1 Victoria Azarenka, who had problems with her right wrist all week, for a 6-1, 6-4 victory in Sunday's final.
It was her first title of the year having lost her three previous finals in 2012.
She also gained revenge for her Australian Open final defeat to Victoria to claim her 25th title of her career, but having reached the French Open semi-finals last year, the goal is to lift the trophy in Paris.
"It's a big win for me, it was my first time here and I am happy to have got a title," said Maria.
"I have had some tough matches and have had to play well, it has been a good start to the clay court season for me.
"I came to Europe a bit earlier than normal before the French Open and this suited my schedule so I added it to Madrid and Rome.
"I was just going to use this tournament as a warm-up, but it works for me.
"I have been playing consistently well here and just chosen the right moments and played a bit smarter.
"On clay, placement is so important, you have to be a bit more patient, but with good placement your chances of holding serve are much higher.
"You finish the tournament and you only have a few days to enjoy the win before you are off to the next one, but I am very pleased with the way it is going so far on clay.
"The goal is always the next tournament, it's tough to get too far ahead of yourself, because there is so much in front of you."
Maria admitted she had extra motivation to win the Stuttgart title after losing twice to Victoria in the final at both the Australian Open and Indian Wells before also losing to Agnieszka Radwanska in the Miami final.
"I had lost a few finals recently, so I was really motivated, you always try and change a few things after you lose and they came off," she said.
"You put yourself in a position to reach finals and then you are disappointed to lose, because you have worked so hard, so it was great to change that around."
Her victory in 84 minutes came with both a winner's cheque of US$115,000 (RM348,000) plus a Porsche sports car.
Maria said she would find space for another high-performance car in her garage, even if she had to get a bigger one built.
"I'm a girl: I say I have no more room for extra shoes, but then I go out and buy more or design a new pair," she joked.
"Same goes for cars, you can always find room for a Porsche." AFP