Saturday, January 31, 2015

Australian Open Day 13: Serena wins 19th Slam

Serena Williams serves during last year's Bank of the West Classic
at Stanford. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Women's final -- Serena Williams continued to make her case as the greatest female tennis player in history, beating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 7-6 (5) today at Melbourne Park for her 19th Grand Slam singles title.
   Williams, 33, passed Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the all-time list and tied Helen Wills Moody for third place behind Margaret Court (24) and Steffi Graf (22).
   Williams won her sixth Australian Open title but first in five years. She improved to 17-2 against Sharapova with a 16-match winning streak that began 10 years ago in the Australian Open semifinals.
   Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion who saved two match points in the second round against qualifier Alexandra Panova, held her own during rallies in the final.
   But the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Williams, generally considered to have the best women's serve ever, pounded 18 aces to the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Sharapova's five. Fifteen of Williams' aces came in the second set. Also, Williams served at up to 126 mph (203 kph) to Sharapova's 110 mph (177 kph).
   Williams left the court during a rain delay in the first set and threw up during a match for the first time in nearly 20 years as a professional.
   Men's final -- Novak Djokovic will renew his rivalry with Andy Murray on Sunday at 12:30 a.m. California time (ESPN). Djokovic is 4-0 in Australian Open finals and Murray 0-3, but the Scot has played better than the Serb in the last two rounds.
   Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 15-8, but the players are tied 2-2 in Grand Slam finals. Murray has won both of his major titles against Djokovic, including Wimbledon in 2013 to end Great Britain's 77-year drought in men's singles there. 
   Notable -- Italians Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini became the first all-Italian team to win a Grand Slam men's doubles title in more than 50 years, beating Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-4. Both teams were unseeded. The last Italians to accomplish the feat were Nicola Pietrangeli and Orlando Sirola in the 1959 French Open. Herbert said he felt sick before the match and could barely run.
   Top-seeded Roman Safiullin of Russia and unseeded Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia won the junior boys and girls singles titles, respectively. 
   Stars and stripes -- Williams' title was one of two by an American in this year's Australian Open. Bethanie Mattek-Sands took the women's doubles crown with Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in their first tournament together.
   Northern California connection -- Williams won her third title in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford last year. Sharapova was the runner-up to Victoria Azarenka in the 2010 Bank of the West Classic.
   Fast facts -- Williams improved to 19-4 (.826) in Grand Slam singles finals. Two of Williams' losses came to sister Venus, in the 2001 U.S. Open and at Wimbledon in 2008. The other two defeats were to Sharapova, then 17, at Wimbledon in 2004 and Samantha Stosur in the 2011 U.S. Open.
   Quote -- Serena Williams: "Growing up, I wasn't the richest. But I had a rich family in spirit and support, and standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen. I went on the courts with just a ball and a racket and hope. That's all I had."

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