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Sharapova makes easy work of Stuttgart title defense

STUTTGART (Reuters) - World number two Maria Sharapova saved her best performance of the week for last when she successfully defended her Stuttgart Grand Prix title with a 6-4 6-3 victory over second seed Li Na of China to kick off her clay-court season in style.

Sharapova, who had needed three sets in all her previous rounds in Stuttgart, found it easier against Li, with her serve setting her up for her second consecutive victory in the indoor arena.

The top seed, her loud grunts echoing around the stadium, snatched a break at the start, with a sizzling backhand down the line that left Li stranded.

Li sent a crosscourt backhand into the net to give the Russian another break and allow her to go 4-1 up.

The Australian Open finalist bounced back in the next game and grabbed her own first break when Sharapova sent a forehand long after a long rally.

Sharapova was in no mood for adventures, however, and quickly established a double break cushion, then served out the first set on her first opportunity when Li sank a return into the net after another well-placed serve.

The pair traded blows until Sharapova earned another break point and went 4-3 up.

With a superb first-serve figure of 76 percent throughout the game, she kept her opponent pinned to the back and earned her second title of the year when Li double-faulted on the first match point.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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