Maria Sharapova failed again to break the Serena voo-doo. She has been losing to Serena Williams for the last 11 years. Today’s final was the 19th match between two of the world’s most experienced women’s tennis players over the last 12 years or so and that gave Serena her 19th Grand Slam title as well. On Saturday night, the world’s best women’s player, coasted to a 6-3 7-6 victory against a fighting Sharapova in the title clash that was worthy of a Grand Slam Finale. It was the first time since 2010 that Serena has won again at Melbourne. Until now, the Russian has won only just twice against Serena head-to-head and today’s win brought up the American’s 16th consecutive triumph against the Russian. But Sharapova feels no shame in losing to Serena as she pronounced immediately after the match. Said she, “I haven’t beaten her in a really long time, but I love playing her because you want to play the best and she is the best”. The last and the only time the two women played in the Australian open final, was way back in 2007, when Serena clinched her third title at Melbourne. In 2008, Sharapova won her only title here but Saturday’s was one of those women’s classic that had passion, performance in purity about it. After losing the first set, Sharapova came back strongly in the second with and exhibited some breathtaking ball-striking. She didn’t gift the match to Serena on a platter. If one could look beyond Steffi Graf’s dominance in tennis for a number of years, it would be difficult to find another example of Serena’s class. Sharapova comes close but it is Serena, who has truly ruled the women’s tennis scene in the last decade and a half. Her Australian Open forays have another unique record; she has never lost in the final because every time she could enter the final, she emerged as the champion.
The final on Saturday began with Sharapova showing early nerves. A double fault at crunch time gave the early advantage to Serena and she rode on the Russian’s error to open a 5-2 lead in the first set. Sharapova fought back to cancel out one break but that didn’t prove effective as Serena broke right back at love in the ninth game to take the set 6-3. In between, there was rain and a 13-minute delay as the court had to be wiped off dry. In the second set, Sharapova played much better. But with Serena’s booming serve finding the right spots, she held a match point at 5-4 with the Russian serving. Sharapova held the serve and managed to take the match to the decider. Sharapova fought on and saved one more match point in the tiebreak. But with the world no.1 relentless in her attack, the Russian was ultimately overwhelmed 6-3, 7-6.
After winning two back-to-back majors, Serena now ranks ahead of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in the list of most Grand Slam victors in the Open era. Only Steffi Graf, with 22 Grand Slam titles is above her. While Sharapova admitted Serena’s superior stature, the American also paid her tributes to the Russian at the end of the match. Congratulating Sharapova, she said that the Russian really pushed her with some fearless offensive play and together they gave the crowd something to cheer about.
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