Serena Williams captured her 19th Major title following a 6-3, 7-6 triumph over Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open on Saturday. History was against the second seed, who had not tasted victory against her opponent since the 2004 Tour Championships in Los Angeles. Moreover she trailed the career head-to-head record 16-2.
Williams was on top from the start breaking in the opening game. Sharapova started with an unforced error to hand the American a 0-15 start before double faulting during the deuce battle to hand the world number one an early advantage. At 3-2, 30-30 the match was delayed as rain started to fall at the Rod Laver Arena.
Some 13 minutes later the roof was closed and play resumed in Melbourne. Television images showed the 33-year old coughing terribly in the change rooms during the interval confirming rumours of ill-health coming into the final. However the 18-time Major winner returned to the court with an ace first up before going 4-2 up.
It was soon 5-2 after a bagel game, including a Sharapova double fault, saw Williams serving for the set. The Russian hit back by breaking straight away however her brief ray of hope was dashed as she was broken to love as the American claimed a 6-3 first set win in an official time of 47 minutes. In the seventh game of the second set, the world number two found herself with advantage during the deuce duel however there would be no nerves from the world number one, who held to lead 4-3.
The moment of truth arrived when Williams served to love in the ninth game to go 5-4 up and for the first time Sharapova would have to serve to stay in the match. An unforced error of a cross court forehand handed Williams championship point but the Russian saved the point and held on to level at 5-5. After 54 minutes it was time for a tie-breaker.
After a see-saw battle it was Sharapova serving at 4-6. She saved the first point but then it was the turn of the 33-year old to serve. An ad court ace appeared to have won it for her but it clipped the net on its way wide to the second seed’s left. However second time around it did not clip the netting as Serena Williams captured her 19th Major title to move third on the all-time list behind Steffi Graf (22) and Margaret Court (24).