Australian Open: All Hail Serena
SERENA Williams consolidated her number one ranking when she (fittingly) delivered an ace at match point to defeat Russian Maria Sharapova 7-6 (5); 6-4 after one hour and 51 minutes in the Ladies Final of the 2015 Australian Open Championships.
She entered the record book with her 19th Grand Slam title; the first being at the 1999 United States Open. She has now surpassed American Chris Evert and Czechoslovakia-born American Martina Navratilova, but is behind German Steffi Graff (22) and Australian Margaret Smith Court (24).
Serena stamped her determination when she broke Maria’s serve in the first game of the match and held serve to lead 2-0. Each player held the next serves and, but with Serena serving at 30-all in the sixth game, rain showers came through the open part of the Road Laver Arena.
Play was suspended as the roof was put on railings to close and the court was mopped by staffers. Serena went into the restroom but Maria remained on court for the 12 minute-duration of the interruption.
Returning to court, Serena coughed, raising concern about the flu condition that had bothered her. Stepping to resume game, she delivered an ace and then a service winner to go up 4-2. She broke Maria’s serve, winning 5 straight points in a game when the Russian hit two double faults. Maria then took Serena’ serve to reduce the tally to 5-3 but failed to win a point in her service, giving the game and first set to Williams 6-3 after 47 minutes.
Williams opened serving in the second and delivered 3 consecutive aces and a service winner.
Facing a break point at 0-40, Maria fought back, hitting her second ace, then a service winner and a second ace to deuce. She hit another ace to take advantage and held on to the game. This gave a glimmer of come-back. Williams served well to take the third game at love.
The seventh game was a battle, with Williams losing her the first two points on her serve, but at 15-30 she hit her 11th and 12th aces to deuce, then faced a break point but she held on with her powerful serving.
The next two games went to each server. In the ninth game, Maria was serving to stay in the match and a double fault offered Serena match point, which the Russian saved with a powerful forehand drilled down the line. Maria then leveled the games to 5-all.
Despite a double-fault at 30-15, Serena delivered her 13th ace to reach game point that was deuced by Maria. Serena held on with another ace at game point to lead 6 games to 5. Sharapova was not about to bow out, as she fired back winning the 12th game without dropping a point.
With games at 6-all, the set would have to be decided by a tiebreak. Serena’s career tiebreak record is impressive, having won 188 and lost 49; contrasted with her opponent’s 172 to 152.
In the tiebreak, Williams lost her first service point but took Maria’s next two serves to go up 2 points to 1. She extended the lead by taking her two points to go up 4-1. Maria took her next two points to reduce the tally. Serving at 5-3, Serena lost the next point on an aggressive return by Maria followed by a winner to Serena’s backhand. Maria lost one of her two service points, giving Serena the opportunity to serve for the match at 6 points to 5.
Serena fired a serve beyond Maria’s backhand and dropped her racket on court but the celebration was premature as the Umpire called the delivery a let-serve. Williams picked up her racket, took a deep breath, bounced the ball a few times and delivered an ace serve to the same spot. She raised her hands up in jubilation as she went to the net to shake hands with Maria.
However, there was a mild drama while a confirmation of the winning ace was awaited. That done, the champion jumped up in joyful relish. It was Maria’s 16th straight loss to Serena, in a game that Maria was overpowered convincingly. For her victory, Serena will receive $3.1 million dollars, twice as much as her losing opponent.