Sharapova, Serena Williams in final
MARIA Sharapova outplayed fellow Russian, Ekaterina Marakova, in two hours and 17 minutes to reach the Ladies Finals. But the final score of 6-3, 6-2 does not reflect the closeness of the encounter.
In the very first game, Sharapova won a 17-shot rally on the fourth deuce before clinching the game after 10 minutes. Another marathon game followed in which Marakova lost the game point at 40-30 when Maria took the game to deuce and then won the first break of serve. Sharapova won her second service game easily to consolidate the lead to 3-0 and almost broke her opponent’s serve in the fourth before Marakova won the game on a successful challenge of a line call.
Serving brilliantly and winning 90 per cent of points on her first serve, Sharapova held easily while her opponent struggled on serve. A break of Marakova’s serve in the eighth game was consolidated by an easy game for Sharapova to clinch the first set after 48 minutes of play.
Marakova lost her serve in the opening game of the second set and also in the third game to give Sharapova a commanding 4-0 lead before she registered on the scoreboard in the fifth game.
Each lady held serve for the rest of the set which ended 6-2 in favour of Sharapova who would go on to play in her fourth appearance in the finals of the Australian Open.
In the One hour and 27 minutes of the match, Maria was a feisty competitor, retrieving balls and winning most of the long rallies.
In the second Ladies semifinal match, Serena Williams stepped on court to face rising star, Madison Keys, who had defeated sister, Venus, in the quarter finals.
Over the years, it is often said that it is hard playing the sisters back-to-back, as the opponent would have been worn out in the preceding match. This did not seem to be the case, as Madison broke Serena’s opening serve quickly despite an ace serve that leveled points at 30 all. The younger challenger held her serve, also delivering an ace in the process. Serena broke Madison’s serve in the sixth game to tie at 3-3. Each player held serve, and serving at 5-6. Madison delivered an ace at game point to take the set into a tiebreak, which Serena won by seven points to five.
Serena broke Madison’s serve in the opening game of the second set and held for a 2-0 lead, but the youngster won her next service game without dropping a point. Serving with new balls, Serena held easily and took a 3-1 lead, then broke serve again, held her own to lead 5-1.
The seventh game produced much drama. Serving at 30-40 (match point for Serena), Madison leveled with an ace. She saved additional eight match points before winning her service game, compelling Serena to serve for the match.
In the final game, with Serena serving at 40-30, Madison showed her mettle by hitting a serve return straight back at the server’s feet such that Serena almost fell as she attempted to move back to handle the shot. At match point, Serena delivered an ace serve to win the game and match.
In the Finals on Saturday, she would face Russian Maria Sharapova who as an unknown 17-year old girl dethroned defending Champion Serena to win the 2004 Wimbledon Championships, heralding her arrival on the tennis world stage. Sharapova was a Runner-up to Serena in the 2007 Australian Open, which she won in 2008. Also she was a Runner-up to Serena at the 2013 French Open Championships. Their guttural rivalry goes way back and will be exhibited in tomorrow’s final.