February 11, 2016

Serena Williams to Face Maria Sharapova in Australian Open Quarterfinals

(January 24, 2016) Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will battle it out for a spot in the Australian Open semifinals as both women won fourth round matches on Sunday in Melbourne. The quarterfinals match-up will be a rematch of last year’s final, which Williams won in three sets.

2008 champion and No. 5 seed Sharapova hit 21 aces in holding off No. 12 Belinda Bencic 7-5, 7-5 in the first match of the day in Rod Laver Arena.

Defending champion Serena Williams had no problems defeating Russian Margarita Gasparya 6-2, 6-1 in 55 minutes.

Williams has an 18-2 record against Sharapova, having won the last 17 in a row.

“I got myself into the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam,” Sharapova said. “There is no reason I shouldn’t be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round. It’s only going to be tougher, especially against Serena.”

“Serena’s obviously a big favorite coming into that match, and what a year she’s had. I expect to play her in the next match, but we’ll see the result.

“It was a great final last year. I came quite close in the second set but not close enough. I look forward to playing the best in the world, and that’s what she has proven to be for the last many years, and it’d be a great match.”

The last time Williams lost a match to Sharapova was in the fall of 2004 at the WTA Finals.
“For my whole career I have been motivated by losses. So that’s just been my thing,” the 21-time major champion said to media. “So each time I take a loss, I feel like I get better.”

The world No. 1, who has a 17-match win streak against Sharapova, was asked about her confidence against the five-time major champion coming into the quarterfinal contest.

“I just feel like I’m really confident in my game right now, not against her or against any other opponent.” Williams said. “I’m just really looking at me right now, and I feel like if I can just continue to play well, then it could be good.”

“I think the person who’s winning could definitely feel the pressure because there is a lot of expectations. The person who is losing, well, I have lost X amount in a row; I don’t have anything to lose.

“But in this situation, I don’t have anything to lose because I’m just here — every tournament for me is just a bonus at this point in my career.

“So it’s an interesting place to be at.”

“I look forward to playing the best in the world and that’s what she’s proven in the last year,” Sharapova said.

Every match is new,” Williams said. “You know, she always brings in something new and something special. She’s very consistent, as well. Yeah, she knows how to be — one player that’s always consistently winning and training and working hard and winning matches.”

The other quarterfinal in the women’s top half of the draw was set. It will be No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska versus 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro.

 

Suarez rebounded from losing the first set 6-0 to beat Australian Daria Gavrilova 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. The Spaniard closed out the match by winning the last six games.
“Well, I start obviously not really good,” said Suarez Navarro. “I think I start too much relaxed. Was tough. Even she was playing good, the first set, no mistake.

“But, you know, you have to believe. I try. I fight. I was there. You have to be there for a comeback like this. That’s it.

“I just try. I just believe that I can do it. Until the last point, I fight.”

Agnieszka Radwanska earned a place in the quarterfinals with a 6-7 (6), 6-1, 7-5 win over Anna-Lena Friedsam. A tearful Friedsam was up 5-2 in the final set, suffered from cramps in her legs.

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Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova Advance to Third Round of Australian Open

(January 20, 2016) Both Day and Night sessions in Rod Laver Arena produced no drama for the top seeds as Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova had easy straight set victories on Wednesday at the Australian Open.

No. 5 seed and 2008 champion Sharapova lead off the day session with an easy win 6-2, 6-1 over Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Rain delayed the start of matches on the outer courts.

 

Six-time champion Serena Williams followed with a 6-1, 6-2 dismantling of 90th ranked Hsieh Su-wei. The victory set an all-time record for Williams – her 79th main draw match at the Australian Open. She 70-9 at the first major of the year where she first played in 1998.

 

The world No. 1 dominated her opponent with 26 winners, closing the match in just one hour. One of her winners was a shot around the post, a first for her she admitted to media. “It’s cool,” she said. “You know, it’s always cool to do something fresh and new. I don’t know if I have done that. I could be wrong, but I definitely don’t remember ever hitting a shot like around the net. So it was good.”

Williams was pleased with her consistency on court: “I don’t think I made that many errors today. Something I was hopefully trying to get back into. And I moved much better today, I think, so slowly but surely feeling a little bit better.”

 

Williams will be taking on Russian Daria Kasatkina in the third round. The Russian defeater her sister Venus in the Auckland tournament earlier this month.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be easy,” Serena said of the match-up. “Any time someone is beating Venus they are more than likely playing really good.

“So I definitely will be ready for that. I obviously will ask Venus what she thought of the match, and I’m sure Patrick will know everything about her match and stuff. He’s really good at studying.

“I’ll be ready for that.”

Roger Federer hit 25 aces in his 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 win over Alexandr Dolgopolov to advance to the third round.

“I thought today I did serve very well,” Federer said. Maybe just matched up well with maybe Dolgopolov maybe wasn’t seeing it as well. But also conditions are fast during the daytime, so that helps to be able to serve through opponents.”

This was his 299th match victory at a major tournament a record setting 65th straight major. This is Federer’s 17th straight Australian Open.

“It’s been going very well for me, and I hope to keep it up as long as I choose to play tennis. You know, I mean, it’s the least I expect to be in the third round of a slam, obviously, so I’m pumped up, playing well, feeling good.”

Federer will play 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov next. Last year Federer lost in the third round of the Australian Open.

“I think it’s a tough draw, to be honest,” Federer said of his next opponent. “He’s got the game to be really dangerous.

“He’s fit enough for a five-setter, so, yeah, I mean, gotta definitely bring my best game to the court.”

Evening session began with fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Eugenie Bouchard 6-4, 6-2. Bouchard, a semifinalist in Melbourne in 2014, had been off the tour after the U.S. Open after falling in the dressing room and sustaining a concussion. Bouchard has filed a lawsuit against the United States Tennis Association.

“I was prepared for that match 100%,” Radwanska said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She had good start of the year, as well, playing couple good matches. I knew I would have to play good tennis today.

“She start very well. She was hitting the ball very good. I think I was just more consistent today. That’s why I could really come back in that first set especially. I was really serving good. I was focusing on that. That helped, as well.”

Novak Djokovic ending the night session in Rod Laver Arena with a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6(3) victory over Frenchman wild card Quentin Halys.

“I think I played a good match,” Djokovic said. “Third set was a close set. Was a battle. Credit to him for fighting, for serving well.”

Djokovic in his post-match news conference denied a report in an Italian newspaper that he tanked a match in the 2007 Bercy event.

 

Djokovic answered:“My response is that there’s always going to be, especially these days when there is a lot of speculations, this is now the main story in tennis, in sports world, there’s going to be a lot of allegations, so…

“I have nothing more to say. I said everything I needed to say two days ago. You know, until somebody comes out with the real proof and evidence, it’s only a speculation for me.”

Defending champion Djokovic is a going for a sixth Australian Open title.

In the upset of the day, sixth seed Petra Kvitova lost to Russian-born Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-4, 6-4. Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 23rd seed lost to Kateryna Bondarenko 6-1, 7-5.

In a 4-6, 7-6(6), 9-7 loss to Monica Puig, Kristyna Pliskova hit a record 31 aces in the match.

Seeded winners in the women’s draw included No. 10 seed Carla Suárez Navarro, No. 12 seed Belinda Bencic, No. 13 seed Roberta Vinci and No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic.

Other seeded winners on the men’s side included No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 7 Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 14 Gilles Simon, No. 15 David Goffin, No. 19 Dominic Thiem and No. 24 Roberto Bautista Agut.

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Sharapova and Bouchard Move into Australian Open Second Round

(January 19, 2015) Second seed Maria Sharapova followed up her recent title in Brisbane with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Petra Martic in the last match of the night session in Rod Laver Arena.

“I had a great start in Brisbane winning the title for the first time in my career – that was great to have those matches coming into such a big match in Melbourne,” she said.

“I played a few night matches in Brisbane with the roof. It was a little cooler out there. Overall the courts have been playing a little faster. Tonight was a little heavier. But I played an opponent that’s capable of playing very good tennis. She’s been injured a little bit I believe in the last year or so, but she can play. She’s got some, you know, big weapons. For a first round against someone that’s already played a few matches, I knew I had to be really strong from the beginning.”

 

Seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard began her campaign for her first major beating Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany 6-2, 6-4 on Monday in the first round of the Australian Open.

“I think the first round is always tough, especially at the beginning of the season,” said Bouchard. “So I’m happy I was able to stay pretty solid. I think she played pretty well. That’s something I guess I have to expect. Now often players will kind of go for it and play a really good level against me. Yeah, I’m happy I stayed calm out there and pretty solid.”

“I was just kind of focused on every point,” Bouchard continued. “It was definitely kind of a tougher back-and-forth battle in the second. But I just stayed calm and I knew once I got a chance I would try to take it, and that’s what I did at the end of the second. I had to kind of weather the storm a little bit when she’d serve well or go for her shots. A couple times she could string together a couple good points.”

Monday saw eight seeded women’s players fall including No. 5 Ana Ivanovic.

AUSTRALIAN – MELBOURNE, AUS
$15,561,973.00
19-31 JANUARY, 2015

Results – Monday, January 19, 2015
Singles – First Round
(2) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. (Q) Petra Martic (CRO) 64 61
(3) Simona Halep (ROU) d. Karin Knapp (ITA) 63 62
(Q) Lucie Hradecka  (CZE) d. (5) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 16 63 62
(7) Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) d. Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) 62 64
Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) d. (9) Angelique Kerber (GER) 64 06 61
(10) Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) d. An-Sophie Mestach (BEL) 62 62
(14) Sara Errani (ITA) d. Grace Min (USA) 61 60
Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) d. (16) Lucie Safarova (CZE) 64 26 86
Carina Witthoeft (GER) d. (17) Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)63 61
(21) Peng Shuai (CHN) d. (Q) Tatjana Maria (GER) 64 75
(22) Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d. (Q) Evgeniya Rodina (RUS) 75 61
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. (23) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 46 63 63
Caroline Garcia (FRA) d. (27) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 64 62
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. (28) Sabine Lisicki (GER) 46 64 62
(31) Zarina Diyas (KAZ) d. (Q) Urszula Radwanska (POL) 36 64 62
Julia Goerges (GER) d. (32) Belinda Bencic (SUI) 62 61
Roberta Vinci (ITA) d. Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) 75 61
Klara Koukalova (CZE) d. (WC) Storm Sanders (AUS) 75 64
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. Ana Konjuh (CRO) 64 64
Christina McHale (USA) d. (Q) Stéphanie Foretz (FRA) 64 16 1210
Monica Puig (PUR) d. (WC) Arina Rodionova (AUS) 60 63
Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) d. Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) 63 64
Sílvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) d. Annika Beck (GER) 75 64
Kiki Bertens (NED) d. (WC) Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 76(8) 57 62
Anna Schmiedlova  (SVK) d. Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) 64 46 62
Katerina Siniakova (CZE) d. Elena Vesnina (RUS) 62 75
Polona Hercog (SLO) d. Wang Qiang (CHN) 36 63 62
Lara Arruabarrena (ESP) d. (Q) Renata Voracova (CZE) 61 62
Stefanie Voegele  (SUI d. Pauline Parmentier (FRA) 61 36 62
Bethanie Mattek-Sands  (USA) d. (WC) Duan Ying-Ying (CHN) 64 36 63
(Q) Alexandra Panova (RUS) d. Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 75 60
(WC) Oceane Dodin (FRA) d. Alison Riske (USA) 76(5) 36 63

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Radwanska Ends Defending Champ Azarenka’s run at Australian Open

Agnieszka-Radwanska-021-405x450

(January 22, 2014) Agnieszka Radwanska ended Victoria Azarenka‘s run at a third straight Australian Open title on Wednesday when the fifth seed knocked out the defending champ 6-1, 5-7, 6-0. The victory for Radwanska moves her into her first Australian Open semifinal.

With defending champion Novak Djokovic knocked out of the tournament by Stanislas Wawrinka with both he and Victoria Azarenka losing in the quarterfinals it is the first time both the defending champions have lost in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in the Open Era.

The last time the two defending champions lost in the quarterfinals at any Grand Slam in the Open Era was at 1997 Roland Garros when 1996 champions Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Steffi Graf lost in the last eight.

The win snapped Azarenka’s 18-match win streak in Melbourne. It also ended Radwanska’s 7 match losing streak to the Belarusian dating back to 2011 and her three consecutive quarterfinal losses at the Australian Open. It was just the Polish women’s fourth win against Azarenka in 16 attempts.

“I think it’s hard to play someone I lost so many times before,” Radwanska said.  “I knew she’s great player.  Especially here, she’s playing amazing tennis.

“On the other hand, I really have nothing to lose.  She was defending the title, not me.  I was really trying to play my best tennis, go for every shot I could.

“You know, I’m just very happy because I really was playing great tennis.”

Radwanska used an all-court game – at times scrambling for every shot to playing finesse tennis to confuse and dismantle a usually hard-hitting Azarenka.

“I think it’s hard to talk about the game plan against someone that can do everything on court,” said the Pole.  “Pretty much everything is going back.  Not really much mistakes.  So I think I was just trying to play aggressive, not in the middle.  I think focus on the serves as well.

“I think you really have to do everything to beat those kind of players like Vika.”

“A lot of good rallies definitely,” she continued, “amazing points, and running forward, backwards, side to side for so many times.

“Well, I was really feeling good on court today.  I think, you know, I was feeling I could really do everything, trying and fighting for every point, every ball.”

“The first set and the third set, I think there was just too many mistakes and too many easy mistakes on important moments,” said Azarenka.  “Like from the dropshot to the dropshot, or just I had the full court.  Of course, she was passing amazing today and getting to every ball.

“But I just didn’t have the focus on finishing the point so accurate.  That definitely changed the momentum.  She really took advantage of that.  It was hard to come back.

“But, I don’t know, my game wasn’t there today as I wanted it to.  But she definitely played really well.”

“She was aggressive,” the world No. 2 said.  “She was making everything.  She was guessing right.  I was just playing a little bit too predictive, you know.

“In the second set I managed to fight back.  Third set, you know, the first game was important.  I let it go, like easily let it go.  From there just couldn’t get back to it.  It was tough.”

In an upset-ridden Australian Open in which the top three women’s seeds – Serena Williams, Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, have all been ousted by the quarterfinals, there will be a first-time winner in Melbourne among the remaining women. The semifinal line-up: Radwanska against No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova and No. 4 Li Na against Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.

“I’m so happy and pleased, especially that I beat one of the best players in the world, Radwanska said.  “Was not easy draw, not easy quarterfinal.

“I’m very happy that I made my first semifinal here.

I think every semifinal, every final is a huge experience with tennis.  Those experience I just had from Wimbledon.  Of course, I’m just very happy, you know, to reach the semifinal at other Grand Slam.

“So I think this is the level everybody playing great tennis.  Well, it’s a bit more pressure.  This is the semifinal of a Grand Slam.  Especially here, first time for me.

“Hopefully I will play the same tennis as today.”

Radwanska said that her match-up against Cibulkova next,  will be a challenging one, since she been playing against since she was 9 or ten:

“I think it’s always tricky to play someone that you know for so long, play so many times, as well.  Like I’m saying, every match is a different story, especially when it’s a semifinal of a Grand Slam, the first semis for me and for her as well.  Well, we’ll see.”

 

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Murray Advances Easily, Seed Killers From Wednesday Fall on Friday

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(June 28, 2013) No. 2 seed and 2012 London Olympic champion Andy Murray continued his straight sets streak by defeating Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 to reach the fourth round under a closed roof at Wimbledon on Friday.

Meanwhile, two days ago several former No. 1 players fell, and most of the conquerors could not back up their dramatic upsets.

Murray is aiming to become the first man from Great Britain to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. He spoke about the pressure on him with so many top seeds out including  Roger Federer who was in his half of the draw.

“I think there’s a lot more pressure on me now with them being out,” Murray said.  “I mean, I don’t read the papers and stuff.  But there are papers in the locker room, so you see some of the headlines and stuff.  It’s not that helpful,” Murray said smiling.

“But, yeah, you need to be professional enough to not let that stuff bother you and just concentrate on each match.  I think I did a good job of that today.  I played well, my best match of the tournament so far. “

As for those players who contributed to all of the upsets on Wimbledon’s Wild Wednesday:

No. 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky who took out seven-time champion Roger Federer lost to No. 37 Jurgen Melzer 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.

“If someone would ask me, Would you rather beat Roger and lose in next round, I would always take it, obviously, “ Stakhovsky said.

“I’m just a little disappointed that I got so blinded by the game I produced with Roger that I kept going with the same game I played against Jurgen, which was just not right.  If I would be just a bit more smarter on that court, I could have been a winner today, I think.”

“I would say I could possibly be not prepared only mentally, because everybody expects or you expect yourself to play better after you beat Roger.  And the only thing you don’t want to happen is to lose next round.  It’s actually what happened, because you’re trying to avoid it, it always come to you.”

Michelle Larcher de Brito who took out Maria Sharapova, was taken down by No. 104 Karin Knapp.

“It was a fantastic win, obviously,” Larcher de Brito said. “It gave me an incredible amount of confidence and it proved to myself that, yeah, I can be there.”

Reigning Junior champion Eugenie Bouchard who dismissed Ana Ivanovic on Wednesday, was shown the door by 19th seed Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5, 6-2.

“Well, for sure it went differently than I hoped,” said the young Canadian.  “She definitely played really well, I thought.  She was very consistent.  She was being aggressive ‑ more aggressive than me ‑ so she was controlling the points.  I think I could have ‑ should have ‑ done more to try to control the points.  Instead she did.”

Bouchard spoke about the difficulty coming off the high from her victory Ivanovic. “I think that was in the back of my mind, yeah.  It’s a totally different situation:  Not on Centre Court, not against a big, big player.

But I knew that ahead of time.  I tried to prepare like it was just another match, which it was.  It was still on a nice court.

“But, yeah, I just think I didn’t play as well as I know I can.”

Dustin Brown who stunned Lleyton Hewitt, los to Adrin Mannarino 6‑4, 6‑2, 7‑5.

“I go out there and try to play my tennis as best as possible,” Brown said.

“Today didn’t work out as well as I would have liked it to.  I played Adrian a month ago.  It was a little similar match.  A little faster.  Both of us held serves.  Especially on the outside it’s really difficult to return a serve.  Most of the time you’re guessing, which also gives him no pressure on the deuce side, because even if he loses a point there, I find it very difficult to return the serve especially on the ad side.

“So he’s playing free.  He came up with a lot of good returns right in front of my feet.  Couldn’t pick them up.”

“Of course, I’m sad that I lost,” Brown said “On the other side, it’s been a great week also.  I shouldn’t forget that.  When I came here, I was in the quallies, I thought, I lost two rounds in qualifying in Nottingham, what am I expecting to do here?  If someone would have told me from the beginning, Sign here, you get the third‑round prize money and points and you are going to win five matches, I would have taken the deal.”

According to the International Tennis Federation this fortnight at Wimbledon had the worst performance by the men’s and women’s top 10 seeds. A total of only 10 of the top seeds – 6 men and 4 women had reached the third round of The Championships.

It is the joint-worst performance by Top 10 seeds at any Grand Slam event in the Open Era. The previous fewest women’s Top 10 seeds to reach the third round at a major was 5 seeds at 2001 Roland Garros. The previous fewest women’s Top 10 seeds to reach the third round at Wimbledon was 6 seeds in 1996 and 2000.

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Serena Williams Gives a Response to Maria Sharapova’s Comments

 

Serena Williams

(June 23, 2013)

Serena Williams was inundated with questions in her Wimbledon pre-tournament news conference on Sunday about Maria Sharapova’s razor-sharp comments in reaction to Williams’ quotes in a recent Rolling Stone magazine.

On Saturday Maria Sharapova took aim at Serena Williams in regard to a recent Rolling Stone article where the author Stephen Rodrick did an extensive interview with the world No. 1.  Rodrick made an assumption that certain comments made by Williams about an unnamed player were about Sharapova.

When asked about the article Sharapova said: “Obviously I have a tremendous amount of respect for Serena and what she’s achieved on the court.  You can never take anything away from that.

“I was definitely sad to hear what she had to say about the whole case.

“As for myself, or whether it was about somebody else, nothing personal, you know.  We’ve talked to Serena many times, and I know everyone tries to create rivalries between us here and there.

“At the end of the day, we have a tremendous amount of respect for what we do on the court.  I just think she should be talking about her accomplishments, her achievements, rather than everything else that’s just getting attention and controversy.

“If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.  Talk about other things, but not draw attention to other things.  She has so much in her life, many positives, and I think that’s what it should be about.”

Maria Sharapova Takes Verbal Shot at Serena Williams in Regard to Recent Rolling Stone Article

Williams told media that she approached Sharapova at the Wimbledon players’ party to apology.

“I personally talked to Maria at the player party, incidentally,” said the world No. 1.

“I said, Look, I want to personally apologize to you if you are offended by being brought into my situation.  I want to take this moment to just pour myself, be open, say I’m very sorry for this whole situation.”

Asked to give a reaction to Sharapova’s comments made on Saturday, Williams said: “I definitely was told of the comments.  I definitely like to keep my personal life personal.  I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it.

“But, yeah, I’ve always, in the past ‑ you guys have known ‑ I’ve kept my personal and professional life very private.  I’m going to continue to do that.”

Defending champion Williams is coming into London with a 74-3 record since 2012 Wimbledon when she began to work with French coach Patrick Mouratoglou to whom she has been rumored to be linked with romantically.

Williams begins defense of her title on Tuesday when she takes on Mandy Minella.

Related article:

UPDATE – Serena Williams Comments on Steubenville Rape Case in Rolling Stone Interview; Apologizes, Issues Statement

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Serena Williams Makes It Sweet 16

Serena Williams Day 2 Press Conference

By Ros Satar

 

(June 8, 2013) PARIS – How does Maria Sharapova solve a problem like Serena?

 

The answer is she doesn’t, at least not today as the head-to-head between them grew to 14-2, when Serena Williams regained the title she won back in 2002 6-4, 6-4.

 

It perhaps feels uncharitable to say that there was an air of inevitability around this final.

 

After all, the numbers do not lie and at best people wanted the match to be competitive at least, especially those who remember the London 2012 Olympic Final.

 

It is always a challenge to defend a title and Maria Sharapova certainly made her intentions clear at the start of the match, gritting her way to defending four breakpoints, before breaking Williams in the next game.

 

But of course, the world No. 1 was not standing for that – with the first set a bizarre see-saw of breaks and clutch points and “come-on’s” from them both.

 

If Sharapova was going to make her claim to defend her crown, it really had to be here to put Williams under pressure from the start.

 

You just had the feeling, though, that it was taking every ounce of effort from Sharapova to stay in contention, so it was no surprise when Williams served out for the first set, having nudged ahead again.

 

The second set started in much the same way, with a long protracted hold and the saving of many break points (again) from Sharapova.

 

Even though it came down to a single break at the start of the second set, Sharapova never stopped fighting, but Williams stepped up a gear, firing down three aces to start and finish the last game, and with it gaining her second Roland-Garros title, and her 16th Grand Slam title.

 

She now holds the most slam titles of any active player, and the sixth of all time, as well as becoming the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era – it may be impolite to refer to a lady’s age but just for the record, it’s 31 years, 256 days by the tournament end date.

 

Having nothing to defend here after her first round loss was a key for Williams today.

 

“I played so well leading up to the French Open last year ‑ and same thing happened again this year ‑ but I didn’t put any pressure on myself,” Wiliams said.

 

Sharapova had pointed out that Williams was serving harder that tomorrow’s finalist David Ferrer.

 

“I think growing up with Venus, you know, she’s serving so big, I was like, I want to serve big, too,” she said.

 

“So I think this definitely really helped me a lot.  Again, I am not the tallest girl on tour, but I definitely think I use my height in a very effective way, and I use it to the fullest of my ability.”

 

Seated alongside the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, Williams admitted her had been very nervous in serving for the match.

 

“I thought, I’m not going to be able to hit groundstrokes.  (Laughter.)

“No joke.  As you see the one groundstroke I did hit went like 100 feet out.

 

“I thought to myself, Look, Serena, you’ve just got to hit aces.  That’s your only choice.”

 

Of course having been on the receiving end of those, it was an obviously reflective Sharapova who faced the press later.

 

“I think getting to the Roland-Garros final is not too shabby, so I’d say that’s a positive.  Coming back as a defending champion, I know it’s never easy to come back with that title, so I’m happy that I was able to produce good tennis within these last two weeks and come to that stage.”

 

To reverse a trend of losses against Williams dating back to 2004 is obviously a work in progress (to put it mildly), but today showed that Sharapova could go toe-to-toe with her.

 

“Some of the results against her last year were not so good.  But the match in Miami and the match here, I think I’m doing a few more right things than maybe I have done in the past, yet obviously not consistent enough.”

 

We are only half way through the season, with Wimbledon coming up, so Sharapova could at least look ahead.

 

“It’s always the one that I always want to perform well at and the one that I always look forward to.

 

“It’s not like I really need someone to give me motivation towards that.”

 

If age is just a number now to Serena, and a new number was reached today (16 Grand Slam titles), then does she have her eye on the next prize?

 

“If it means I stop at 16 or if it means I have more, I definitely want to continue my journey to get a few more.”

 

Roll on Wimbledon and the US Open.

 

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Sharapova Completes Rain-Delayed Victory over Bouchard

Maria Sharapova

By Ros Satar

 

(May 31, 2013) PARIS – Fans who braved the constant downpour were unlucky not enough to see the completion of No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova’s match against Canadian teen Eugenie Bouchard at Roland Garros on Friday.

 

Bouchard held her opening serve, but from then on it was one-way traffic in the first set, before rain stopped play with Sharapova leading 4-1.

 

With a restart under diminishing light, around 8pm CET, Sharapova found herself defending break points in both her games, before finally taking the first set.

 

The second set saw Bouchard get the first break, only for there to be two more in succession.

 

As the rain started to fall yet again on the late evening crowd, Sharapova showed absolutely no signs of wanting to come off, as Bouchard appealed to the umpire to come down from his sheltered canopy and see the conditions for himself.

 

With the Canadian serving at 2-4 Adv-40, the play was finally suspended for the day – with Sharapova looking none too happy.

 

The restart today was quick with Bouchard holding the game left in the balance, the night before.

 

However, Sharapova delivered the final coup-de-grace, breaking the teenager to advance into the third round 6-2, 6-4, where she will meet Zheng Jie.

 

Sharapova had to admit that despite wanting to stay out last night to finish the remaining games, it really was not an option.

 

“Well, at 8:45, I think when it was still raining, it was pretty tough to continue.

 

“Overall I was just happy that I finished the match and on to the next round.”

 

 

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Sharapova Defends Stuttgart Title with Victory Over Li Na

Sharapova Porsche

By Tumaini Carayol

(April 28, 2013) STUTTGART – Maria Sharapova arrived in Stuttgart as merely the defeNding champion. One Porsche mega-deal later, the Russian had almost assumed home-crowd support as fans and staff alike cheered the Russian on passionately throughout the week.

 

After her perilous struggles in the rounds before, Sharapova saved her most impressive victory for last, showcasing a performance of the highest quality to refuse Li Na her title 6-4, 6-3. The Russian struck the ball cleanly and with precision, while her movement improved dramatically overnight as she closed out the match in two impressive sets.

 

“I definitely thought it would be the toughest match of the tournament because, you know, she’s the second seed and someone I lost to last time I played against her,” she said.

 

“Probably because I knew she’d be the freshest of both of us. I tried to do the right things from the beginning and not have a let-down like I did in the other matches. I’m extremely happy that I pulled through.”

 

Sharapova’s afternoon was most succinctly summed up by a break point in set two. Chasing from side to side, the Russian found herself on the back foot as Li attempted to dominate. Eventually she stretched for a last-ditch left-handed forehand which barely trickled over, but as the Chinese number one attempted to put away the weak reply, Sharapova had already begun sprinting back to her forehand side, into the open court. A stunning on-the-run forehand down the line passing shot followed as she wrestled the break from her opponent’s grasp and hammered the final nail into the coffin that held Li Na’s title hopes.

 

“I think the main thing (in the earlier rounds) is the way that I fought,” said Sharapova later. “The way I came back from being down from, you know winning the first set.

 

“Losing the second could have been tough and easy to let the third set go but I kept fighting to give myself a chance to get into the next round. And then I played my best tennis today. So no matter how difficult those matches were, no matter how tired I was.”

 

On the question of pressure after recording a breathtaking 20th straight victory on red clay, Sharapova showcased a relaxed outlook to her outstanding previous 12 months on the red dirt.

 

“It’s more exciting. I really feel like I deserve to be in that position where I’m considered one of favorites because I needed to work to be in this position for many years. I’ve worked on getting stronger. I’ve worked on getting patient. I’ve worked on getting my game to adapt a little more on clay. There’s a reason why I’ve got myself there. It didn’t take a day, it didn’t take months, it took many years.

 

It remains difficult to name the players who will figure as the top favorites for Roland Garros as the second Grand Slam draws ever-nearer, but if one thing is for sure, it’s that Sharapova will top them all.

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