*Serena Williams continues to solidify her legacy in the annals of professional tennis history.
On today, a sunny day in Miami at the Sony Ericsson Open, she took down – for the 11th consecutive time since 2004 – her long-time rival, Maria Sharapova (RUS). She also broke, along with Maria’s spirit, a longstanding record of a WTA living legend in the process.
It wasn’t as straight forward of a match as the history between the current world’s no. 1 and 2 would indicate, though.
Williams started the first set in typical fashion, serving and moving well and blasting her powerful groundstrokes. On serve first, she opened the match with a 1-0 lead, but Sharapova was game-faced and quickly followed that up by winning her opening service game too, leveling the match 1-1. You could see the determination and belief in the 6-2 Russian’s eyes.
That’s where things got a little rocky for Williams.
Maria, determined to both break her 9-year drought against Serena and her title drought in Miami despite reaching the final 4 times, kept that game face throughout the entire 1st set. After a few break exchanges between the two and great movement, blistering power and superb shot making by the Russian, she came out on top, taking the first set, 6-4. It was the first set she’d taken off Serena in those 9 consecutive years of losses.
Maria’s box was pumped, as they had helped her to devise a strong – at least to that point in the match – game plan to finally eek out the win over the 15-time Slam champion. The plan included directing shots at Serena’s dangerous but at times unreliable forehand; it’s been known to breakdown more so than any other aspect of her game. It seemed to be working.
Enter the plot twist.
Between the changeover from the 1st set to the 2nd, the notoriously passionate Williams forcibly tossed her racket toward her chair, indicating the awakening of the ferocious lioness that lies within the accomplished 31-year-old world no. 1. She likely had a scolding conversation with herself and with her picked-on forehand and became determined to right the ship.
Back to work it was…
Both Williams and Sharapova held their first few service games in the beginning of the 2nd set, but the change in momentum toward the former was thickening with each rally exchange. By the 7th game in set 2, the fighter in Serena had fully awakened as she broke Sharapova’s serve, taking the 2nd set scoreline to 4-3. With Serena back on serve, the afterburners kicked in and Sharapova didn’t win another game that set, losing it 3-6, and was completely shut out in the 3rd.
Serena’s shots were beginning to penetrate the court more, the ace total began creeping up, and her shot making became a thing of beauty. Sharapova, too, attempted a motivating conversation in between sets, but with her coach to “whine” about how the game plan was breaking down and Serena’s forehand was producing blistering winners. The chat was to now avail, however, and history repeated itself.
Williams rode that wave of unflappable momentum and determination to the very end, decisively winning the 2-hour match – and breaking Steffi Graff’s record of 5 title wins at the tourney, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. She closed it out with 6 aces and was 7/7 on break points won.
The road to the 2013 Sony Ericsson Open final was up and down for Serena, as she was pushed to her limits by other high caliber players and battled uninspired starts, but it’s no surprise that she was able to play her way into yet another victory as she’s been known to do. She secured another notch in her highly decorated belt as a tour de force on the WTA tour and a 6-time Sony Ericsson Open winner. She’s also the oldest and first n0. 1 seed to win the Premier event.
The conversation about Serena Williams being the GOAT intensifies with each jaw-dropping achievement such as this and with each broken record at 31 years of age and counting.