Tennis

Serena is the ‘Queen of Oz’

Serena Williams of the U.S. celebrates after defeating Maria Sharapova of Russia in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Saturday.

Serena Williams of the U.S. celebrates after defeating Maria Sharapova of Russia in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: Andy Brownbill

Rolls past Navratilova and Evert on all-time Major winners’ list

Serena Williams gave a gallant Maria Sharapova another serving of Grand Slam heartbreak to win the Australian Open on Saturday and her 19th Major title.

Though sickly, wheezing and battling coughing fits, Serena’s serve was in the rudest of health and her athleticism astonishing as she closed out a nerve-shredding clash 6-3, 7-6(5) under the lights of Rod Laver Arena.

In sealing her sixth title at Melbourne Park, Serena surpassed Martina Navratilova, the woman who passed her the trophy, and Chris Evert in Grand Slam title wins, while drawing level with fellow American Helen Wills Moody, third in the all-time list.

At 33, the oldest Australian Open winner in the professional era, Serena left few in doubt that the pursuit of Steffi Graf’s 22 titles and Margaret Court’s 24 will continue.

Fittingly, she sealed the title with an ace, her 18th, on the third match-point, and after shaking hands with her opponent, bounded around the court like a woman possessed, squealing in delight.

Steamrollered in the opening set, five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova was magnificent as she dragged herself off the canvas and staved off defeat twice on match-points with brilliant down-the-line winners.

At 30-30 with Serena leading 3-2, rain fell, forcing a break and the American bashed a ball away in disgust before marching to the exit and pacing a tunnel under Rod Laver Arena.

She returned, coughing into a towel, but doubled back immediately, ducking off court again to deal with a coughing fit as a non-plussed Sharapova limbered up.

Returning again, she smashed an ace and a forehand winner down the line to close out the game, and though losing focus to drop serve in the next, Serena responded by breaking Sharapova to love to take out the set, roaring a blood-curdling “come on!”

Having tallied a paltry three winners to her opponent’s 11 for the set, the signs were bad for Sharapova, but she rose to prise out a break point at 3-3.

Bellowing with emotion, the American rolled on and pounced as Sharapova served to stay in the match at 5-4, creating a match-point that the nerveless Russian slapped away with a searing forehand down the line.

She repeated the trick at 6-4 in the tiebreak, but as ever, the American’s serve had the final say, the booming ace announcing the champion like the first volley of a 21-gun salute.

MAJOR WINNERS

Margaret Court: 24

Steffi Graf: 22

Helen Wills Moody: 19

Serena Williams: 19

Chris Evert: 18

Martina Navratilova: 18

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 4:22:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/serena-williams-wins-her-6th-australian-open-title/article6842708.ece

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