Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 to take her 6th Sony Open title in Miami.
If you only caught the last set, you would have thought “How in the world did Sharapova manage a set off Serena?!”. Williams shifted into high gear the last 9 games hitting clean and controlling points to take the trophy, but for a set and a half it was all Maria. Fans who tuned in most likely thought April Fools came early, as Sharapova applied her game plan effectively and consistently, attacking Williams’ forehand and returning deep, to take the 1st set 6-4. It would be the first set Sharapova has won off Williams since 2008 in Charleston, and the first on hard courts since the 2005 Australian Open.
But we would soon learn Serena is not one for pranks on the court. After getting broken to love by a Sharapova framer of a game to go down a set and a break at 3-2, Serena did what Serena does. She broke back to love, stole all momentum from Sharapova, and stepped up when it mattered most. For most of the match Williams was good and Sharapova was great. But watching Williams break Sharapova from 15-40 down at 4-3, their roles reversed. The rest of the match was textbook Serena, with the 3rd set reverting back to what fans are practically hard-wired to expect when it comes to this matchup. Williams delivered a bagel to capture her 6th Sony Open title, the most of any woman.
Sharapova for her part recognizes Williams’ brilliance…and her own shortcomings.
“That’s why she’s No. 1 in the world. You know, she’s really capable of doing that [coming back]. Then towards the end, just, you know, I wasn’t there.”
Out of gas?
“I’d love to use that as an excuse, but I’m not one for those.”
Still, taking a set off Williams in nearly 5 years must give Sharapova hope. “It was a step in the right direction and there’s no doubt that we’ll be playing many more times. There’s no doubt I’ll be able to beat her.” The quote will surely elicit scoffs from many (i.e., everyone who has seen their last 12 matches), but you know how the saying goes — “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Until then, Serena Williams is still the woman to beat on tour and that’s no joke.