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Germany's Kerber beats Bartoli in Paris final

Marion Bartoli of France returns the ball to Angelique Kerber of Germany during their final singles match at the GDF Suez WTA Open 2012 tennis tournament at Coubertin stadium in Paris, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2012. ( AP Photo/Michel Euler)

By TRUNG LATIEULE

Associated Press

PARIS (AP) Angelique Kerber won her first WTA title Sunday by overpowering second-seeded Marion Bartoli 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-3 in the Open GDF Suez final.

Kerber became the first German to win the Paris tournament since Steffi Graf in 1995, clinching victory with a forehand winner.

"I knew I had nothing to lose," Kerber said. "She was the favorite today."

After a first set with four service breaks, Kerber capitalized on an unforced error from Bartoli to take a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker. She clinched the opening set when the Frenchwoman's backhand sailed long.

Kerber then whipped a forehand cross-court winner to break for a 2-0 lead in the next set. But the U.S. Open semifinalist failed to serve out the match at 5-3, and Bartoli won five straight games to even the match with an ace.

"I got a little bit nervous," Kerber said about being 5-2 up in the second set.

Kerber jumped to a 4-0 lead in the final set. Bartoli saved four match points at 5-2 but Kerber converted her fifth match point in the next game.

"I made a few tactical mistakes in the beginning of the third set that cost me," Bartoli said. "I lost the match in those first four games."

Kerber beat top-10 players for the first time in her career this week. As well as edging the 7th-ranked Bartoli, she also ousted third-ranked Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals Friday.

"That means a lot to me," Kerber said. "Now I believe in me and I know that I can play with them."

Kerber said things clicked for her when she reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open last year.

"From that moment, I was feeling without pressure," Kerber said. "I began to believe in me and in my game. I'm for sure a little bit stronger mentally. I'm a little bit fitter than one year ago."

Bartoli was in tears at the trophy presentation.

"Physically, it was extremely intense," Bartoli said. "I really dug deep to rally. I consumed so much energy and adrenaline that I just let everything go after the match."

Updated February 12, 2012

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