‘’I went on the courts with just a ball and a racquet and a hope” – Serena Williams on her younger days after her 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open Final.
It’s this hope, self-belief and a never-say-die attitude that helped Serena Williams overcome some of the greatest obstacles in life and win her 19th Grand Slam trophy!
Serena won her first major title at the age of 17, sixteen years back in 1999 and today she stands as the greatest of her generation while so many of her peers have retired. Serena Williams is unparalleled. Her desire, her hunger, her drive, her ambition for more glory even after achieving so much, remains second to none.
And she proved that yet again at the Australian Open – a Slam which she had already won five times before. She was facing a competitor equally ambitious as her, who too had the rare achievement of a career Slam.
Maria Sharapova may have lost the last 15 times consecutively to Serena but there was no denying her competitive spirit. And that made for an exciting women’s final. That Serena Williams was sick with an apparent chest infection, perhaps presented a glimmer of hope for the Russian.
However, Serena doused all those hopes as soon as the final began. She started with a break in the opening game and immediately piled the pressure on the second seed who looked tentative.
Sharapova tried to slow down the Serena juggernaut by throwing a few dropshots in between, but unfortunately that only delayed the inevitable. A rain-break with Serena serving at 3-2 too did not help Sharapova’s cause.
Serena, who later on admitted to having thrown up during the break, came out even more determined. Even though Maria got a chance to break back, she lost her own serve thrice to give up the first set 3-6.
The second set was more competitive with Sharapova freed up mentally and more eager to attack. Her fighting spirit too started shining as she saved two break points to hold for 1-1.
Since then, in the tightly-contested second set, the world number two got a few chances to break the Serena serve. But, each time Serena came up with her mighty serves and dashed all hopes of the five-time Slam winner.
Fiery aggression, smooth movement, tremendous defence – Serena was spot on in every department despite Maria trying very hard to put the world number one on the backfoot. The set had to be decided in a tiebreak and Maria even went ahead with a mini-break.
Serena, though, nudged ahead with some superb returns. Maria Sharapova, however, refused to give up and in the second set she saved a couple of match points with some gutsy forehands.
Eventually Serena had a match point on her serve. The American thundered an ace down the corner and was just about to celebrate when she was told it was a let.
There was no mistake on the second opportunity. Serena repeated the serve – boomed her 18th ace to gift herself a 19th Grand Slam title.
Thus at 33 years, 127 days Serena Williams becomes the oldest woman to win the Australian Open singles title in the Open Era, surpassing Li Na who won it in 2014 at 31 years.
If the final had witnessed some great shotmaking from both the champions, then the winner’s speech delivered by Serena Williams was one of the most inspiring ever. Maria Sharapova too had a gracious tribute for Serena.
Fognini/Bolleli win men’s doubles title
In the day’s other Championship match, it was the Italian pair who emerged victorious in the men’s doubles final. Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolleli beat Pierre-Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-4.
Leander Paes will look to win the mixed doubles title with Martina Hingis at 10:30 AM IST this Sunday, while Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will lock horns in the big men’s singles final later in the day.