Take a bow, ladies. Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova, 6-3 7-6(5) to win her sixth Australian Open title and 19th Grand Slam overall in what was a fantastic final. The final had plenty of highlights and it was the second set that really brought this match to live. Pre-match, I wasn’t really feeling it. Although there was much expectation that Maria could finally bag a win against Serena, I still wasn’t confident of a competitive match. It began with a rather ominous, sinking feeling as Sharapova failed to take advantage of some game points and eventually succumbed to being broken in the first game of the match. Sharapova got on the board in the third game of the match and began to find her way in. A brief rain delay halted play with Williams serving at *3-2 30-30.
Sharapova’s rhythm was certainly disrupted on the restart and despite breaking Williams to love when she served for the set (more Serena breaking herself), she gave up her third service of the match as Williams broke to love to seal the first set. An air of predictability was starting to set in as Williams quickly held and then conjured up two break points in the next game. The general consensus was that this match was close to being over. I was on the same boat based on *that* head-to-head. Serena, looking calm and assured, was in her groove.
To her credit, Sharapova dug in. She’s always been recognised as one of the best competitors on tour, but she’s never really proven that mentality in matches against Serena. She held with some pinpoint accurate serves. Maria started to bring out the “come ons”. That’s always a dangerous thing to do against Serena, who responded with interest. The hindrance call was another really interesting moment in this gripping match. Alison Hughes (BRAVE LADY) called a hindrance after she thought she had served an ace. It happened so quickly, I didn’t actually hear anything. Serena responded magnificently well showing no reaction and getting through the game. The sarcastic fist pump a couple of points later was classic.
As the second set grew on, I was waiting for Serena to break Maria’s serve. It just seemed inevitable, but it never came. Maria played a really fine second set. Sharapova was living with Serena from the baseline. The difference between the pair was Serena’s serve, which was brilliant. In the second set, she got 70% of first serves in and won 87% of points on it. Twice Serena went *0-30 down on her serve in the second set and responded with a flurry of aces / unreturnable serves.
Serena was unable to push through on her first Championship point as Maria hung on for dear life. She even gave a racquet clap to Maria’s save on Championship point, which was pretty awesome. The match rolled into the tiebreak… Maria began with a magnificent return down-the-line on the first point. Serena answered by winning the next four points including a superb return of her own. Serena definitely looked nervous and tight with a few errant groundstrokes. She just stayed ahead… when Championship point cropped up again, she served it out with an ace.
This was a bloody brilliant match. Serena proved once again that when she’s on her game, she is the best player in the world. She had a few tricky matches along the way and was blighted by a cough during much of the second week, but it felt like to me that when she survived the match against Garbine Muguruza, this was her title. She played an excellent match, looking super sharp from the baseline and serving so impressively. Sharapova could have served better, but she got the second set to the tiebreak and just couldn’t carve an opening on the return.
The speeches were both awesome. Sharapova looked close to tears before she stepped up to give her speech but as always, nailed it with a very classy speech.
Overall, this has been a good Australian Open, but not a great one. I enjoyed seeing Madison Keys have a big breakthrough tournament. The early upsets in the bottom half of the women’s draw killed some of the buzz early on although many of the players who caused the upsets did at least take advantage of their openings in the draw. The last couple of Slams for the women have petered out in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, but this one at least ended with a worthy final.
In a weird way, I am kind of relieved that the Australian Open is nearly over. It’s an absolute bitch to try and follow, and i’ve missed most of the matches in this second week (screw you, work). I’ve got so many to catch up on… top of my list are the Cibulkova v Azarenka and V.Williams v Giorgi matches. I hope you all enjoyed the previews. It’s been hard work, but equally rewarding. Thanks for all your support and comments. If you’ve only just found Moo’s Tennis Blog this fortnight, pleassseeee stayyy with me… I’ll be blogging all year 🙂