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Substance over style in victory



Published: Sun, September 10, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Maria Sharapova easily captured her second Grand Slam title.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Maria Sharapova insists she's more about substance than style, and now she has a second Grand Slam title to prove it.

Her strokes as piercing as her shrieks by the end, the third-seeded Sharapova beat No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-4, 6-4 Saturday night to win the U.S. Open final.

"This is an amazing honor," Sharapova said. "I'm so happy that it's here in New York, my favorite city in the world, in front of the best fans."

Sharapova burst onto the tennis -- and endorsement -- scene by winning Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17. She'd come close to adding more major championships since but went 0-5 in Slam semifinals -- until this tournament.

Teen sensation

When Henin-Hardenne, a finalist at all four majors this year, slapped one last forehand into the net, Sharapova dropped to her knees and covered her face, then rose and trotted to shake hands.

Then Sharapova hopped up and down, looking for the first time all night like any other teen.

She climbed into the stands, losing her way briefly until being helped by an usher, for hugs with her father and her hitting partner, who've been sending her signals during matches about when to drink water or eat bananas.

But Sharapova needed very little help on court against Henin-Hardenne, a five-time major champion who would have returned to No. 1 in the rankings with a victory. By facing only one break point, and overcoming an early lapse, Sharapova wound up dominating a player with more impressive accomplishments.

Henin-Hardenne entered the night leading the tour in matches won (54), Grand Slam matches won (25) and tournament titles (five) this season.

"She's been a real fighter tonight," said the Belgian, who won the 2003 Open. "The better player won tonight."

Two games into Saturday night's final, a man's voice came from the sellout crowd of 23,712, screaming the tag line from Sharapova's oft-played current TV ad: "I feel pretty!"

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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