Melbourne, Australia (BBN)-She may have been ill but that did not stop Serena Williams from claiming a 19th grand slam title Saturday.
The world No. 1 beat second-ranked Maria Sharapova 6-3 7-6 (5) in an absorbing Australian Open final to move into sole possession of second place in grand slams won in the Open Era behind Steffi Graf’s 22, reports CNN.
Despite suffering from a fever and cough this week, Williams set the tone by breaking in the first game.
She took control of the first set by winning six straight points following a 12-minute rain delay- organizers then opted to use the roof at Rod Laver Arena — for a 5-2 lead.
The second set was punctuated with shouts of “come on” from both players but it was ultimately Williams who had reason to celebrate the most.
A gutsy Sharapova saved a match point trailing 5-4 and another at 4-6 in the tiebreak- each time with forehands down the line- after saving two match points in the second round.
Another escape act was not on the cards, however.
When Williams finally had match point on her serve, she delivered her 18th ace.
The pair have not always gotten along but a warm handshake ensued.
“I wasn’t the richest (growing up),” Williams told the crowd.
“But I had a rich family in spirit and support. And standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen.”
“I went on the courts with a racket and a ball and a hope. That’s all I had.”
Sharapova- who was bidding for a sixth major but first outside Roland Garros in seven years- lost her 16th straight match against the American.
Williams, too, maintained her record of never losing past the quarterfinals in Melbourne, improving to 12-0.
“I have to congratulate Serena on creating history and playing some of her best tennis,” Sharapova told the crowd.
“It’s really an honor playing against her.”
“I haven’t beaten her in a really long time but I love every time I step on the court to play against her because she’s been the best and as a tennis player you want to play against the best.
“I was almost down and out in the second round and I feel like I gave myself a second life in this tournament and gave myself an opportunity. It wasn’t quite enough today but I’m proud of my effort and couple of weeks here.”
BBN/SK/AD-31Jan15-6:00pm (BST)