Saturday, 31 January 2015

Williams does it yet again !

So all the preliminaries had been completed and after the upsets and promising performances we were left with the top two seeds to fittingly play off for the 2015 Aus Open Women's Singles title. Not since top seed Justine Henin defeated second seed Kim Clijsters in 2004 had the two top seeded women played off at Melbourne Park.

Maria Sharapova almost departed when in deep trouble against Panova but since that recovery has looked strong against all her opposition.  Serena Williams had lost the opening set of two of her matches but for the remainder has also appeared a likely finalist.

Past records are not meant to count but if Sharapova was to capture her second Aus Open crown she would need to defeat a player who has had the better of her since 2004 - there is that year again. Maria has only lost four finals at Grand Slam level, the same as Serena - the other side of the equation is a little different with five GS titles for Sharapova against eighteen for Williams.

Sharapova won the toss and served and didn't serve well, Serena threw in a couple of sizzling returns and a double fault gave the break to the top seed. Despite a double for her own racquet and a splendid return from Sharapova the winning shots from Williams were too many and she held for 2-0.

A far more competent display on serve from Maria ( a love game in fact) finished off with a backhand setting up a forehand winner brought the score to 2-1 in Serena's favour.
An ace and two service winners in reply to an excellent drop shot from Sharapova took Serena to 3-1 and some fine deep serves from Maria causing headaches and errant shots from Williams maintained the one game differential.

At 3-2 and 30-30 rain intruded the spectacle and the players took a much unwanted break while the roof was closed.  Maria had hit a terrific forehand winner and was having much better of the baseline rallies than earlier but Serena still had her serve as a weapon.
An ace and a winning forehand down the line after the break sent the score to 4-2.

A love game to break Sharapova again featured pinpoint groundstrokes from Williams which sent Maria from one side of Victoria to the other, and then the second seed served a double fault.

Serving for the set at 5-2 Serena stumbled facing 0-40.  Big serves saved two break points but she couldn't prevent the third from inflicting damage and Maria had one break back.

However the comeback was brief.  Three set points came from the Sharapova serve and Serena locked the set safely away 6-3 with the bonus of serving first in the second.

Three aces, one off a second serve, plus a slashing forehand winner sent a brutal message to Maria in the opening game and Serena looked good at 1-0.  Facing two more break points due to the pressure of Serena's returns, Maria served three big ones and won the fourth point to hold in a vital game. Serena's disappointment at missing out on the chances took her anger out in a positive way with another love game to lead 2-1.

From 15-30 Sharapova showed some grit, starting and finishing the game with backhand winners down the line 2-2.
After having the nerve to hit an off forehand for a return winner of a Serena first serve, the American felt insulted enough to win the next four points with huge serves and hold the edge again 3-2.

The quality of tennis from both players in the sixth game was excellent and Maria did well to overcome a rampant Serena and save a break point in the process of levelling 3-3.
Serena was at 0-30 before her booming serve rescued her, but she almost lost serve due to her over exuberance when shouting for joy prior to a point finishing. She was docked the point which she almost certainly would have won, and then had to save a break point. She did with enormous serving and steadiness in a crisis. 4-3 Williams.

Sharapova held convincingly and it was 4-4. No room for mistakes now.

The big serving remained reliable and a love game from Williams handed Sharapova the assignment of holding serve to remain in contention. "Stayin Alive" was blaring out of the speakers at change of ends.

Sharapova saved a match point with a brilliant winner and held serve for 5-5. She was not going away in a hurry. In fact she was pushing Serena hard with glorious shots from both sides and the world's best had to negotiate deuce to once again move a game away from the title 6-5.

A tie break would decide the set following possibly the best service game from Sharapova for the match.

Serena lost the first point on her serve thanks to a wonderful pass down the line from Sharapova.
She recovered and led 4-1 with some clutch tennis and big serves.  Sharapova came back to eventually be serving at 4-5 but a Serena winner gave her two more match points. The first was saved with another withering shot from Sharapova before a big serve was the proper way for the best in the world to win.

Serena Williams Australian Open champion for the sixth time 6-3 7-6 and what a privilege to have seen each one.

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