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Sharapova shows will to win; Russian prevails over Jankovic

CINCINNATI -- No meltdown for Maria Sharapova in this Cincinnati final. She put five sterling points together, and that was enough.

Sharapova overcame a first-set letdown on Sunday, rallying to beat Jelena Jankovic, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3, for the championship of the Western & Southern Open.

The fourth-seeded Russian survived a match full of service breaks -- 16 in all, seven in the final set alone -- for her second title of the season. Sharapova's best moments came in the tiebreaker, when she won the last five points to even the match.

"That's pretty much it, putting five points together that were well-played," she said.

Such stretches were rare in a ragged match that lasted 2 hours, 49 minutes and had a pair of brief rain delays.

The 14th-ranked Jankovic extended her streak of 17 months without a singles title. She won in Cincinnati in 2009, but hasn't gotten a championship since Indian Wells on March 21 last year.

"This match could have gone either way," she said.

"I had my chances. It showed the match is not over until you shake the hand."

Jankovic shook hands and then sat in her chair after the match, biting a white towel while staring straight ahead, thinking about what had just happened. The match ended when her baseline forehand sailed wide.

Despite the loss, Jankovic was upbeat. She came to Cincinnati feeling rusty and lacking confidence after playing few matches lately and having little success.

"I'm pretty unpredictable," she said. "If somebody told me I was going to play a final here, I would right away sign the paper."

It was a sweet about-face for Sharapova, who reached the finals in Cincinnati last year against Kim Clijsters, got three match points in the second set, then melted down.

"It's been a great year for me so far," Sharapova said. "It can always be better or worse. I'm definitely proud I've gone further than last year, after the disappointing loss here last year."

This time, she came out on top in a tournament that had the women's bracket torn apart by injuries, illness and upsets.

Clijsters withdrew because of an abdominal strain -- she's also out the U.S. Open, where she's won the last two titles. Venus Williams was sidelined by a virus. Sister Serena Williams dropped out at midweek with a sore toe. Third-seeded Victoria Azarenka had to quit because of a hand injury.

With Clijsters out, Caroline Wozniacki became the top-seeded player in the draw -- and lost her first match.

On the men's side, Novak Djokovic's remarkable winning streak ended with a grimace, one that puts a new spin on the U.S. Open.

The world's top-ranked player was forced to retire in the second set Sunday because of a sore right shoulder, giving Andy Murray the championship.

It was the Serb's first bad moment in his 57-2 season. Djokovic had won 16 consecutive matches since his only previous loss of the season in the semifinals against Roger Federer on June 3 at Roland Garros. The winning streak has taken a toll.

Djokovic talked about feeling exhausted in Cincinnati, coming off his record fifth Masters series title in Montreal last week. He said his serving shoulder had bothered him for about the last 10 days, but he'd been able to manage the soreness and keep winning.

On Sunday, he couldn't go on.

"There is no good loss, that's for sure," Djokovic. "The good thing is there's a week, eight days to the start of the Open.

"I'm confident I can recover and be ready for the U.S. Open."

He was completely off his game against the fourth-seeded Murray, won the first set, 6-4, and was ahead, 3-0, in the second when Djokovic decided just before the rain came that he couldn't continue. Djokovic got his shoulder treated after he lost the first set, grimacing at one point.

With his serve registering only in double-digits and his forehand limited by the pain, Djokovic realized he couldn't compete. He said he would have retired even if the rain had temporarily stopped the match.

"I could have maybe played another couple of games, but what for?" he said.

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