Russian starlet Maria Sharapova earned her third career Grand Slam crown Saturday defeating Ana Ivanovic7-5, 6-3 to win the Australian Open women’s singles title in Melbourne.
“It’s amazing,” said Sharapova who struggled with injuries and serving problems last year. “You know, sometimes you just — when you’re putting the work in it just seems so, so hard, and you never know when that work’s gonna pay off. When you’re going through tough moments, you never know when you’re going to have good moments.”
In a battle of two 20-year-olds amid 90 degree heat, Sharapova dominated Ivanovic on her service games, dropping just ten points total on serve for the entire match winning 24 of her last 26 service points.
“I know I keep saying this, but I don’t think I’m at the peak of my career yet,” said Sharapova, the first Russian female to win the Australian Open. “I don’t think my body has 100% developed into its own. I’ve got many more things to learn, you know, in my tennis, and many things to build and improve.”
Both players started the match on even terms until Sharapova finally broke in the fifth game to go up 3-2. But Ivanovic fought back and got the break back after Sharapova threw in consecutive double faults to give the Serb the game and level the match at 4-4. After escaping a 4-5, 0-30 deficit, Sharapova got the second and final break of the set at 5-5 before serving out a 49-minute first set.
Ivanovic was immediately under the gun in the opening game of the second but the new World No. 2 saved two break two points. Ivanovic kept the set on serve until Sharapova broke consecutively at 3-3 and again at 5-3 to seal the match.
Sharapova finished with 16 winners and 15 unforced errors and never lost a set in the tournament while Ivanovic has 14 winners to 33 errors.
“I think she played well,” said Ivanovic. “She was a little bit nervous, I would say. She had also chances in the beginning of the first set. She was a break up, and then I broke her back. And then I still had some chances on my own, and she still fought hard and played some good tennis and managed to win that first set, and I’m sure that gave her confidence.”
Sharapova is now 3-1 in Grand Slam finals following title runs at 2004 Wimbledon and 2006 US Open. She finished runner-up to Serena Williams winning just three games against the American. A win at Roland Garros would complete the career Slam for the Maria.
Ivanovic suffered her second Slam final setback after finishing runner-up to Justine Henin at Roland Garros last year.
“It’s a little bit disappointing because I thought I had a lot of chances in that first set but didn’t use them,” said Ivanovic, who drops to 2-3 lifetime to Sharapova. “But, you know, still, it’s a learning experience for me. I fought hard, you know. I just felt a little bit let down with my forehand, made some big mistakes in crucial moments.”
En route to the final Sharapova ended tournament favorite Justine Henin’s 32-match win streak in the quarterfinals, and then she stopped Jelena Jankovic from reaching her first major final in the semis.
Defending champion Serena Williams was ousted in the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive Slam as the 8-time Slam champion fell to Jankovic in straight sets.
Already the highest paid female athlete in the world, Sharapova will take him $1,370,000 AUS in addition to her 17th career title while Ivanovic earned $685,000 AUS.
“You know, you just have to take it one match at a time.You’ve got to believe in yourself. This was probably the toughest draw that I’ve ever had in a Grand Slam, but I’m the champion here. So if I can get a tough draw again and win it, hey, I’d do it any day,” Sharapova added.
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