Serena Williams beats Sharapova to win 6th Australian Open, 19th Grand Slam singles title



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MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams won her 19th Grand Slam title, continued her unbeaten run in six Australian Open finals and extended her decade-long domination of Maria Sharapova with a 6-3, 7-6 (5) win on Saturday night.

After celebrating prematurely on her third match point, letting her racket go after serving what she thought was an ace but learning that it was a let, top-ranked Williams took a deep breath and fired another ace — her 15th of the set and 18th of the match — to seal it.

This time, the celebration was real. She jumped around like a little child, bouncing up and down, before shaking hands with Sharapova at the net.

"Growing up I wasn't the richest but I had a rich family in spirit and support and you know standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen," Williams said. "I went on the courts with just a ball, and a racket and a hope, that's all I had.

"I'm so honored to be here tonight and to hold this 19th trophy @ my favorite stadium."

Williams, coughing frequently and still affected by a recent cold, controlled the first set around a rain delay in the sixth game, when the match was stopped for 13 minutes for the roof to be closed. Williams came back on court momentarily near the end of the break, but returned to the locker room with a hacking cough. She later said she had vomited before returning to Rod Laver Arena to continue.

It didn't show. She came back from the break and fired an ace to start a run of six straight points. She was broken while serving for the set but broke Sharapova for a third time to clinch it.

The 33-year-old Williams, the oldest winner of the Australian women's title in the Open era, won the first six points of the second set and seemed on course for another lopsided victory before Sharapova hit back to set up a dramatic second set.

Sharapova saved two match points, including one in the 10th game when she bravely hit a forehand winner down the line — applauded by Williams. She twice held serve to stay in the match.

The No. 2-ranked Sharapova forced a tiebreaker and then took the first point off Williams when she leaped into a service return down the line.

But Williams rallied again and relied on her serve to keep the points short, missing a second set point when Sharapova hit a winning service return. Williams didn't relent, though, and secured the title that lifted her above Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who had 18 Grand Slam singles titles.

Williams has now won 16 in a row and is 17-2 in career matches against five-time major winner Sharapova, who hasn't won a head-to-head meeting since 2004.

Two of Williams' six Australian titles have come with straights-set wins in the final against Sharapova, the first in 2007. For 2008 champion Sharapova, it was a third loss in a final at Melbourne Park.

"I haven't beaten her in a long time but I love every time I step on the court with her," said Sharapova, who had to save two match points in the second round. "I've had some of the best memories of my career on this court and also some of my toughest losses, but that's the life of a tennis player."

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