Brisbane, Australia: Maria Sharapova claimed her 34th career title with a victory at the Brisbane International on Saturday, hours after Roger Federer moved within one win of a triple-zero milestone.
Top-seeded Sharapova had a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 win over Ana Ivanovic in the women's final, letting a 4-1 lead and two set points slip in the first before coming back with early breaks in the second and third sets to secure the title.
It was an ideal warm-up for the first major of the season, and gave Sharapova the chance to overhaul Serena Williams for top spot in the rankings depending on results at the Australian Open, starting Jan. 19.
"I played four good matches against very different types of opponents. Couldn't have asked for better preparation," Sharapova said, playing down the importance of the rankings. "Now that I won a tournament, maybe I have a better chance of going higher in the rankings. Right now I am No. 2; the next spot is 1."
Federer has a chance to go into the Australian Open with 1,000 career match wins to his credit after beating fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion came into the 2015 season with 996 wins and has had three more on the way to Sunday's final, where he'll meet third-seeded Milos Raonic. The 33-year-old Federer has a 7-1 win-loss record against the 24-year-old Canadian, who served 34 aces to grind out a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) win over second-seeded Kei Nishikori in the other semifinal.
"It's a goal for the season, so I still have time to get to a thousand," Federer said, smiling, in a post-match interview. "I mean, it's a really big number, no doubt about it. Love to get it tomorrow. If not tomorrow, I hope it happens at the Australian Open. It would definitely be an incredible milestone to reach."
Only retired greats Jimmy Connors (1,253) and Ivan Lendl (1,071) have won more than 1,000 matches.
"They were very consistent for a long time, very match tough, and definitely players and athletes you could look up to," Federer said. "It would mean a lot to get to a thousand, but they're still ahead of me."
Raonic appeared to grow in confidence as the match progressed against U.S. Open finalist Nishikori, earning three match points with an ace in the third tiebreaker and then clinching it after 2 1/2 hours with a stunning forehand service return.
Raonic said he'll be relying again on his serve, hoping to emulate the form that earned a win over Federer in Paris last year.
"That's always been a key. Last few matches I started poorly. I would get broken right in my first service game, which is not the way to really go about things, especially against a top player and especially against Roger," he said. "So I've got to keep that pressure on him and then sort of step up when I can create my opportunities."
It was his second win in six matches against Nishikori. Neither player dropped serve in the match, meaning Nishikori exited the tournament without being broken in a service game.
Eventually, though, the quick points Raonic was able to pick up on his booming serve made the difference.
Venus Williams won her first title of the year when she recovered from a set and a break down for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over top-seeded Carolina Wozniacki in the final of the ASB Classic at Auckland, New Zealand.
Her sister, Serena Williams, missed a chance to win a third Hopman Cup title when she and U.S. teammate John Isner lost 2-1 to Poland in the final at Perth.
The No. 1-ranked Williams finished off a rusty week with losses in the singles and the mixed doubles on Saturday night.
Agnieszka Radwanska gave Poland the lead with a 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1 win in the women's singles before Isner leveled the final with a 7-6 (10), 6-4 win over Jerzy Janowicz.
Radwanska and Janowicz combined to win the deciding doubles match 7-5, 6-3 to claim Poland's first title in the international mixed team event.
"The title means a lot for us," Radwanska said. "I remember last year like it was a week ago — we lost the final in the mixed doubles, so I really wanted to win this one. Wins like this always give a lot of confidence."