For almost two sets of today's Sony Open final, it looked like Maria Sharapova's Miami curse might finally be broken. But it wasn't to be, as Serena Williams defeated her 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and won her 6th Miami title.
When both players held easily in the opening games, I got the sense that there might actually be real contest in the making. The third game lasted 14 minutes, and Sharapova had three break chances, but could not convert any of them. At 4-all, Sharapova held a break point, which was wiped away with an ace from Williams, but then the Russian made the conversion on her second break point. She held at love when she served for the set.
Sharapova hadn't taken a set off of Williams for five years. The last time she had won a set against her was in Charleston in 2008.
Williams began the second set with a love hold, and after she had gotten a couple of points out of her system, she shot her a opponent a quick "You want a fight? You've got one" look that scared me, and I was sitting hundreds of miles away in my living room.
Williams broke in the third game, and was broken right back. Then, at 2-all, Sharapova broke Williams at love. Was it really happening? The Miami 3rd seed was moving into her forehand with the kind of finesse we never used to see from her, and she was using that forehand to her advantage. But then Williams broke her right back, and an intense ground rally came next, followed by an intense net encounter, with Williams holding. Williams would go on to take that set 6-3.
Williams broke right away in the third set. By this time, the world number 1 was giving Sharapova very few errors. Serving at 0-2, Sharapova went down 0-30, brought the score to 30-all, then double-faulted twice to get broken again.
For Sharapova, the Miami ship had sailed. Williams ended up winning 10 games in a row, and Sharapova didn't win a single game in the final set.
There was a time when Sharapova hit ace after ace. There was also a time when Sharapova had an outstanding second serve, and won a lot of points with it. But--despite making a lot of post-surgery progress in the serving department--the Russian's serve is no longer the reliable factor it used to be. Williams' serve, on the other hand, is more reliable than ever.
Williams has now won the Miami tournament more times than any other player in WTA history. Sharapova is now five-time runner-up, which has to sting. The Russian owns a Career Slam, but she can't win Miami. She did win Indian Wells, however, and will now go about preparing to defend her French Open title.