By Mark Lamport-Stokes
INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova played aggressively from the start to win her first title since last year's French Open with a 6-2 6-2 demolition of Caroline Wozniacki in the BNP Paribas Open final on Sunday.
In a showdown between two former world number ones, the second-seeded Russian overpowered the Dane with a ruthless display, breaking her twice in each set to seal victory in one hour 21 minutes.
Sharapova was in attack mode throughout with an array of deep groundstrokes and superb serving to claim her second title at Indian Wells after winning for the first time in 2006.
The 25-year-old Russian ended the match in champion style with a 109 mph service winner before raising both arms skywards in celebration.
"What makes it so special is when you end up as the champion, that's why I am smiling," a beaming Sharapova said courtside after extending her run of at least one WTA title each year since 2003.
"I really appreciate these moments. This is what I do all the work for. When you have days like this ... it's a really nice feeling because everything has paid off."
"The scoreline looks a lot easier than I think the match actually was," added the Russian world number three who will rise to two when the rankings are issued on Monday.
"It was a tough match, a tough battle, and there were a lot of games that went to deuce and a lot of long games.
"They could have easily swung the other way, especially some opportunities she had in that second set. But I always felt like I was always a foot ahead, especially with the breaks. I was able to serve well today, and that helped me."
Eighth seed and 2011 Indian Wells champion Wozniacki, who like Sharapova was competing in her third final here, applauded the Russian's high-quality performance.
"She just played too well today," the 22-year-old Dane said. "I tried. I tried to do my best out there, but, yeah, it just wasn't good enough today. I didn't feel like I was playing poorly. I felt like I was playing pretty good tennis out there.
"She was putting pressure on me from the start. She was serving very well. You know, I felt like everything that she wanted to do today was going in."
Sharapova made a fast start on a sun-splashed afternoon at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, unleashing a barrage of fierce ground strokes and breaking Wozniacki in the first game of the match with a forehand winner down the line.
The Russian was also serving well, regularly firing down first serves above 100 mph, and she broke her opponent again in the seventh to lead 5-2 when a Wozniacki backhand sailed wide.
Maintaining an aggressive approach, Sharapova gave the Dane two break points at 15-40 in the eighth game after hitting a backhand long followed by a booming forehand that bounced beyond the baseline.
However the ice-cool Russian got back to deuce with successive backhand crosscourt winners, earned her first set point with a 104 mph ace and finished it off with another searing forehand winner.
Wozniacki failed to hold in the opening game of the second set after double faulting, and was also broken in a protracted seventh game, saving three break points before hitting a backhand wide to trail 2-5.
Four-times grand slam singles champion Sharapova wasted little time in serving out for the match, a crunching crosscourt forehand forcing an error from her opponent to put her 40-0 up before she finished off with a service winner.
"I didn't feel like I played my best tennis in the beginning of the tournament, but sometimes it's the way it works," said Sharapova, who nonetheless did not drop a single set on her way to the title.
"It's always better to work yourself through the tournament and get better as it ends than sometimes start extremely well and then you don't feel like you're gaining momentum as the tournament goes on."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)