Serena denies Sharapova to win sixth Australian Open
Originally published on 31/01/15
The world No.1 maintained her decade-long dominance over the Russian, who has not beaten Williams since 2004, as she claimed a 6-3 7-6(5) victory on Rod Laver Arena.
At 33, Williams surpasses 2014 champion Li Na as the oldest Australian Open winner and also moves ahead of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who won 18 major titles each during their careers.
“Standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen,” she said. “Growing up I wasn’t the richest kid but I had a rich family in spirit and support. I went on court with a ball and a racket and hope and that is all I had. It is inspiring for all you out there: never give up because you never know what can happen.”
Williams extended her head-to-head record against Sharapova to 17 wins from 19 matches with a dominant serving performance. The top seed won 84% of points on her first serve and fired 18 aces, while four untimely double faults proved costly for Sharapova, who was on the back foot almost immediately after her first double fault handed Williams a break in the opening game of the match.
Play was suspended during the sixth game to close the roof after the rain arrived, and after a short delay Williams had to come out and serve at 30-30, but an ace down the middle helped dig her way out of a potentially tricky situation, as she won six points in a row to break to love. Sharapova was able to get one break back as Williams served for the set, but failed to hold onto her serve as the American took the opener in 47 minutes.
But the Russian is nothing if not a fighter, and despite being overpowered in the first set, she refused to let the match run away from her as she saved two break points to keep her on level terms early in the second set.
Sharapova continued to find herself under pressure on serve, but saved all four break points she faced. She had a glimmer of an opportunity in the seventh game but Williams’ serve once again pulled her through as she saved the only break point she faced in the second set, and with each service hold, the pressure was on Sharapova to respond to keep herself in the contest.
The No.2 seed saved two match points in her second-round win over Alexandra Panova, and serving to stay in the match she saved another with an inside-out forehand that landed on the line, prompting applause from her opponent.
Some more gutsy play from Sharapova saw her force a tiebreak, but some big returns and some even bigger serves helped Williams wrap up victory in an hour and 51 minutes, fittingly converting her third championship point with an ace.
“It has been a long couple of weeks for me,” said Sharapova. “I was down and out in the second round but I gave myself an opportunity and I am proud of my effort.”