World No.1 @SerenaWilliams captures 6th @AustralianOpen title! Def Sharapova 63 76(5) http://t.co/NBg7STWIdm #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/fFlEdQiAcX
— WTA (@WTA) January 31, 2015
It was a really good match, as a major final should be, despite the fact that it was over in straight sets. Serena Williams, playing in the Australian Open women's final against Maria Sharapova, beat the Russian star for the 16th consecutive time, but she had to seriously compete for the win, especially in the outstanding second set. Sharapova played a better match against Williams than she has in a while, but still couldn't manage to take the world number 1 to a third set.
Sharapova didn't get off to a good start. She was broken in the first game, but after Williams held, Sharapova held at love. Obviously having settled down a bit, Sharapova began to introduce the shot-making variety that would propel her to make this match so competitive. The roof had to be closed (something many thought should have been done earlier because the sky was dark and there was light rain). Williams, who is ill, began coughing--she's been coughing all week--and left the court.
During the break, there was a somewhat amusing display on the court that looked like a send-up of the Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony: Dozens of ballkids, arranged in a symmetrical pattern and all bending over in exactly the same way, wiped the court dry with towels. Chris Evert, calling the match for ESPN, pointed out that the Australian Open could spend millions of dollars to put up roofs, but for drying, all they could come up with were some towels.
When play resumed, Williams broke for 5-2, but then double-faulted twice when she served for the set, and was broken back. However, she then broke Sharapova at love to take the first set 6-3.
Sharapova's serve improved considerably from the beginning of the second set. Her second serve, in particular, became less of a liability, and she took the set to 2-all with controlled power. In the fifth game, Sharapova moved ahead of Williams, but couldn't break her. In the seventh game, Williams went down 0-30, but then hit two aces and held for 4-3, despite Sharapova having had a break point.
Williams then held for 5-4, and Sharapova saved a match point with a forehand down the line. She used a drop shot (not for the first time in this match) to get the ad point, and then held when Williams' return went wide. Wiliams then held at love, and then Sharapova took it to a tiebreak.
Williams got an early mini-break, and stayed ahead throughout. When she went up 6-4 and needed just one more point, she did a complete twirl, then squatted and shook her entire body for a moment. This match had some tension! Sharapova then missed her first serve, but survived by spinning in an almost-ace second serve, then winning the point with another ferocious forehand.
But time was running out for the Russian. It was Williams' turn to serve, and she hit an ace. She jumped in the air and began her walk toward the net, but--wait!--the ball was called a let, and play continued. So Serena hit another ace, and that was that, 6-3, 7-6. Because, as the champion said a few years ago about her big match-ending aces: "You know how I like to do it."
Williams hit 18 aces in this match--15 of them in the second set. She also ended the match with an 84% first serve win percentage. Sharapova, especially in the second set, threw just about everything she had at Williams, but the Williams serve, when it's on--which is most of the time--gets Serena out of trouble again and again. As long as she's serving at this level, Williams prevails. Even when she's injured. Even when she's sick.
As for Sharapova--she's getting closer. Someone had to lose, but in this case, the loser looked really good. You can't get any better than that in a final.
Your 2015 #AusOpen Finalists! @serenawilliams @MariaSharapova pic.twitter.com/MH1UdeTUKF
— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) January 31, 2015