|Agnieszka Radwanska holds the trophy aloft after her victory over Maria Sharapova in the women’s final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., March 31, 2012. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters)
KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. - Maria Sharapova again came up short at the Sony Ericsson Open, losing in the final for a fourth time in as many tries.
Agnieszka Radwanska denied the Russian star this time, claiming a 7-5, 6-4 victory on Saturday for her second title of 2012 and the ninth of her career.
It was also the biggest win for the 23-year-old native of Poland, who improved to 9-2 all-time in WTA finals. She also claimed the title in Dubai earlier this year and is 26-4 [not including a walkover loss in Malaysia] in 2012, with each of those losses coming against world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
"I'm just very happy that I played my tennis since the beginning of the year and hope I can continue," Radwanska said during the trophy presentation after the match.
After Marion Bartoli handed Azarenka her first loss of 2012 earlier this week in the quarterfinals, it was clear sailing for Radwanska. She did not drop a set during the event and earned a trip to the final with a 6-4, 6-2 pounding of Bartoli on Thursday.
On Saturday it was more of the same against an erratic Sharapova, who entered the match with a 7-1 lifetime mark against Radwanska.
Sharapova failed to convert a pair of early break points in the match, then fell behind 0-40 in the 12th game with a wide forehand, a long backhand and an overhead into the net.
Radwanska nearly let her escape. She drilled a forehand into the net on her first break chance, then netted a second-serve return on the next point before Sharapova finally wilted and sent a forehand into the tape to give the Pole the first set in 57 minutes.
Sharapova racked up 26 unforced errors in the opening set, while Radwanska had just one winner but also committed a mere eight unforced errors.
Radwanska dominated on serve early in the second set, winning consecutive games at love and opening a 30-love lead in the seventh game. Sharapova then battled back with three straight points to gain the first break chance for either player in the second set.
However, after a strong forehand that Radwanska chased down with a backhand lob, Sharapova sent another forehand long and Radwanska managed to win the next two points to hold.
The disappointment appeared to affect Sharapova immediately, as she lost the first two points on her ensuing service game. She bounced back quickly, though, and won the next four to even the set at 4-4.
After Radwanska won the next game, Sharapova's wildness again surfaced. Three errors allowed Radwanska to earn a pair of championship points and she needed only one when a Sharapova backhand landed beyond the line.
"She played extremely well today," lamented Sharapova after the match.
Sharapova fell to 24-16 all-time in finals, including 0-3 this year. She also lost in title matches at the Australian Open and Indian Wells -- both against Azarenka.
The three-time Grand Slam champion has lost to four different women in finals at Miami -- falling to Kim Clijsters in 2005, Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006 and Azarenka last year.
Radwanska, who had just six winners and committed only 10 unforced errors on Saturday, earned a first prize of $712,000.