Serena clinches Australian Open

2007-01-27 09:46
<b>Serena Williams celebrates her women's singles final win over Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open in Melbourne. (Rob Griffith, AP)</b>

Serena Williams celebrates her women's singles final win over Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open in Melbourne. (Rob Griffith, AP)

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Melbourne - Serena Williams destroyed Russian top seed Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-2 in the Australian Open final on Saturday to clinch her eighth grand slam title.

Unseeded after a year plagued by injury and dismissed by many as merely a dangerous floater at the start of the tournament, the American made a mockery of the rankings by tearing the United States Open champion apart in just 63 minutes.

Sharapova, who will be world number one next week, became the sixth seed to fall to the 25-year-old Williams, who celebrated her success by rolling on to her back and punching the air with delight.

"I would like to dedicate this win to my sister Yetunde," she's not here but I love her very much," said a tearful Williams. Her sister was shot dead in Los Angeles in 2003.

"I said if I won this it would be for her."

Williams, 2003 and 2005 Australian Open champion, announced her intentions by sealing the opening game with an ace.

She broke the Sharapova serve immediately, when the Russian netted a loose forehand.

The American then held to love. The warnings signs were there for a Sharapova collapse when she lost her own serve to love to trail 4-0.

Williams at her best

Sharapova, at least, carved out a break point in the next game before Williams extended her lead to 5-0 and the 2004 Wimbledon champion finally stopped the rot when she held to love to make it 5-1.

The first rally of that game saw Williams at her fired-up best, appearing to mouth "You'll pay for that" after Sharapova blasted a smash into the world number 81's body.

Pay for it she did, with another service break at the start of the second set as her hopes of becoming her country's first women's Australian Open champion disappeared in a blaze of stunning Williams strokes.

Another unforced error gave Williams the double break at 3-0 and even though Sharapova held for 4-1 and 5-2, nothing could stop Williams becoming the second unseeded woman in the professional era to lift the title following Chris O'Neill's success in 1978.

"You can never under-estimate her, not many people expected her to reach the final but I did, she's an amazing champion," said Sharapova after her first defeat in a grand slam final.

"I look forward to playing here many more times and winning a few more games, I hope."

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