Serena Williams continued her dominance over Maria Sharapova as she collected her 19th grand slam title with a straight sets victory in the Australian Open final.
Sharapova has not beaten her rival for 11 years and her losing streak continued at Melbourne Park on Saturday, as the American enjoyed a 6-3 7-6(5) victory on Rod Laver Arena to claim the championship for a sixth time.
Top seed Williams, who was suffering from a coughing fit, broke Sharapova in the opening game of the match and she rallied to take the first set, amid a short rain delay, in 47 minutes.
Sharapova offered stubborn resistance in the second but, despite saving two championship points and forcing the tie-break, Williams proved too strong and wrapped up victory just shy of two hours.
“Growing up I wasn’t the richest but I had a rich family in spirit and support,” Williams said afterwards. “Standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen.
“I went on the court with just a ball, a racket and a hope and that’s all I had. It’s inspiring for you guys that want to be the best you can be, you never give up because you never know what can happen and who you can inspire and influence.
“I have to congratulate Maria who played a wonderful match. She really pushed me tonight. She played so well.”
She added via Channel 7: “I had a really bad cough and ended up throwing up actually. I think that helped when I got everything out of me and cleared my chest out because I couldn’t breathe a little bit.
“I’ve had a really bad cold and cough. Usually when that happens you stay in bed for a week, you don’t play matches every other day and practice every other day. Now I have a couple of days to take a deep breath and lay down.
“I’m going to go to bed and curl up under some covers and go to sleep. That sounds excellent right now.”
Despite having not beaten her opponent since 2004 – a run of 16 straight losses – Sharapova was again magnanimous in defeat.
She said: “I have to congratulate Serena on creating history and playing some of her best tennis. It’s an honour playing against her. I’ve not beaten her in a really long time but I love stepping on the court every time because she has been the best and you always want to play the best.
“I was almost down and out in the second round so feel I gave myself a second life in this tournament. It was not quite enough today but I am proud of my effort. I had some of my best moments on this court but also some of my toughest losses but that’s the life of a tennis player.”
Victory sees Williams move into outright second in the list of grand slam titles won throughout the Open era; lifting the Daphne Akhurst trophy again saw Williams climb above Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. She is now three titles away from Steffi Graff’s record of 22.