Unseeded Williams clinches title

Melbourne, January 27:

Sharp and intensely focused from the start, Serena Williams simply overwhelmed Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday to win the Australian Open and her eighth Grand Slam title.

Only the second unseeded woman to win the Australian title in the Open era, Williams came into the tournament ranked No 81 after playing in only four tournaments last year due to a bad knee. Chris O’Neill, who was ranked No 111 when she won the 1978 title, was the only other unseeded woman to win here.

It was the 25-year-old American’s first title in 15 tournaments since winning the 2005 Australian Open, and the most dominating win in a completed championship match at Melbourne Park since Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-0, 6-2 in 1994.

Williams put together the third consecutive singles rout in Rod Laver Arena, after top-ranked Roger Federer pounded Andy Roddick and No 10 Fernando Gonzalez was nearly flawless in beating Tommy Haas in the semi-finals.

Williams won her other two titles here, in 2003 and 2005. Williams was clearly into it from the start. She was pouncing on Sharapova’s second serves, standing inside the baseline to send them back faster than they came over.

As the match wore on, Sharapova’s shoulders drooped when she missed a first serve, clearly dreading another zinging return, then staring back in frustration when it left her flat-footed. The American had nine winners in the first four games alone, a stretch in which she won 12 straight points after Sharapova held a game point while serving at 0-1.