Victorious Serena Williams Wins Record 6th Sony Open
By Jane Voigt
MIAMI, FL (March 30, 2013) — When the ultimate tennis history book opens, Serena Williams‘ name will pop out like bright shinny diamonds in the sky.
And it’s not because Maria Sharapova or any other great player has not made an impact. It’s because of Serena Williams’ game. Her tennis game. Her mind game. Just her.
Today she elevated her worth by winning her sixth Sony Open title 4-6 6-3 6-0 over Sharapova. Serena also upped her tournament wins here to 61-7. Both are records. Her victory was also the first one recorded by a number one player since 2004; and she hoisted the trophy then, too. Finally, at 31, she has become the oldest player to win in Miami.
“In the beginning of the week I definitely didn’t feel like I would be here, not with the way I was playing,” Williams said, remembering her comeback win over Dominika Cibulkova. “But, you know, it definitely feels good to go through everything.”
Maria Sharapova’s chances of beating Williams looked rough on paper. A victory would have put a few bookies out of business. She had not defeated Serena since 2004, and Maria had lost her four finals here. Today was not exception, as she went home 0-5.
“It’s tough to lose in the final stage because you’ve worked so hard to get there,” Sharapova admitted. “But, it is a really nice stage to be at. It’s a nice opportunity that you’re giving yourself.”
Crowds overwhelmingly favored the underdog. They recognized the tilted odds and tried to keep Maria’s spirits high. They did, too.
Serena punctuated her first game, striking a 119 mph ace. Maria, not to be outdone, struck three unreturnable serves in her first. Game on. Twenty long minutes later only three games lit up the scoreboard. They were on serve.
At 3-4 Williams glimpsed at her first break chance. An unfortunate spot for Sharapova. Give the 15-time major title holder the game and she’ll sweep the set.
However, Sharapova smacked a gutsy second serve ace to hold at 4-games all. She broke Serena next and won the last game of the set at love.
As Serena sat down at the sideline she smacked her racquet on the bench, but not hard enough to break it.
Sharapova went up a break twice in set two. The momentum was hers. She was three games away from the big trophy and achieving the Indian Wells/Miami double.
The tall Russian had out-played Serena Williams. Sharapova served better, returned serve better, and most visibly moved better. Her own ‘cow on ice’ self characterization evaporated.
“I was up 40-15 and Love-30 in the next games,” Sharapova explained. “I thought I still had opportunities to get back in the set. Those are the games you really need to win, especially against her. She’s the number one player in the world.”
She sat at the bench, her head down, recalling the missed chances. Gone was her 22-game winning streak at this Sony Open.
Missed chances against Serena Williams are no nos. Even though she admitted her tennis was off, she can shift from third to fourth gear and leave opponents in the dust. And that’s what she did.
Williams ran off 10 games in a row, clinching the third set at love.
How does Williams do this with consistency? How could Maria botch such an opportunity?
“She’s really capable of doing that,” Sharapova said, as if she had no choice. “She obviously had to do a few things differently. I was controlling a lot of the points in the first set and the beginning of the second..”
Sharapova gave no insight into her 10-game slide and eventual loss, except, “Then, toward the end, I just wasn’t there.”
She did blame her serve, the wind, and Williams’ ability to take charge.
But to have gone from storm-buster to busted out made no sense. She said it was not about food, “I’d love to use that as an excuse, but I’m not one for those.”
Williams was at a loss when asked how she turns matches around. In fact throughout the press conference she contradicted herself. First she could not remember anything. Said she would have to look at the video and figure out what she needed to do better.
“I just have, for me, I don’t know,” she said. “I feel like I’m mentally really tough, and ever since I was a kid, I have always been tough mentally. I knew what I wanted to do. I don’t stop. So whatever it takes to get there, usually I know I can always lift my level. At the Open I knew I could play better. I knew it. And today I knew I could play better. It’s just a fact of being able to do it.”
A couple minutes later she attributed her burst of energy to Gatorade. “I just started drinking Gatorade. I was just like, you know, it gives you a little energy. No joke, seriously. It’s not product placement.”
Right at that moment she knocked over her bottle imprinted with the sport’s drink logo.
Maria Sharapova definitely played Williams well. But with sets split each woman had equal opportunities. Williams may not have been able to recall her upward swing, but she had faith in her game, in her mental toughness.
“I want to thank my god, Jehovah, my dad, and my whole team,” she told the crowds during the awards presentation.
Sharapova, on the other hand, remained resolute, as if blinded by the experience and incapable or unwilling to see clearly.
“The more that I give myself this opportunity, the better chance I have of winning,” she said, rather proud of herself. “That’s what I have to think about.”
Williams’ break point percentage sheds light on her mysterious capability at renewal. She converted seven out of seven break points. This is Serena Williams. Waste not, want not.