I was especially interested in today's final in Stuttgart because I think that Maria Sharapova and Li Na are the two women most likely to win the French Open. Going into the final, Sharapova played three consecutive three-set matches, and she made a lot of unforced errors. Li advanced much more gracefully to the final, but the Sharapova she faced today was the lethal one, not the one who makes errors and whose serve sometimes goes to pieces.
Both women were playing their first clay court tournament of 2013, and Sharapova was the defending champion. The Russian served extremely well in the final and handily took control of the match. Li was pushed back a lot by Sharapova, and on several occasions, she wasn't willing to take the chances that might have changed the match's momentum. Instead, she remained on the defense much of the time, which just doesn't work against a peak Sharapova.
The defending champion won 6-4, 6-3 and drove her beautiful new blue Porsche onto the stadium. The Stuttgart title is her 29th, and she has now won 16 consecutive clay court matches.
Germany got some good news in the doubles competition. German wild cards Mona Barthel and Sabine Lisicki won the title when they defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza 6-4, 7-5.
Also this weekend, Francesca Schiavone won her sixth WTA title when she defeated Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-1, 6-3 in the Marrakech final. Schiavone did not drop a set throughout the tournament.
Timea Babos and Mandy Minella won the doubles final, defeating Petra Martic and Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-1.
The Madrid Open begins May 4. Serena Williams is the defending singles champion, and Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci are the defending doubles champions. There will be no blue clay this year; that was a failed experiment. Madrid is a premier mandatory WTA event.