Serena continues mastery of Sharapova for magical 19th
Williams left few in doubt that the pursuit of Steffi Graf's 22 titles and Margaret Court's 24 will continue
Serena Williams gave a gallant Maria Sharapova another serving of grand slam heartbreak to win the Australian Open on Saturday and bolster her claims to be the all-time greatest player with her 19th major title.
Though sickly, wheezing and battling coughing fits, Williams's serve was in the rudest of health and her athleticism astonishing as she closed out a nerve-shredding clash 6-3 7-6(5) under the lights of Rod Laver Arena.
In sealing her sixth title at Melbourne Park, Williams surpassed Martina Navratilova, the woman who passed her the trophy, and Chris Evert in grand slam title wins, while drawing level with fellow American Helen Wills Moody, third in the all-time list.
At 33, the oldest Australian Open winner in the professional era, Williams left few in doubt that the pursuit of Steffi Graf's 22 titles and Margaret Court's 24 will continue.
"Gosh, where do I start? I have to thank God for this," Williams gushed at the trophy ceremony.
"I was down and out, and he helped me today, and I just said prayers and it just -- not to win but to be strong and to be healthy and in the end I was able to come through.
"I also have to congratulate Maria, who played a wonderful, wonderful match tonight. She really, really pushed me tonight, and she played so well. Gave us a great final for not only for you guys but for women's tennis."
Fittingly, she sealed the title with an ace, her 18th, on the third match point, and after shaking hands with her opponent, bounded around the court like a woman possessed, squealing in delight.
Sharapova sat quietly in her chair, nursing the pain of a 16th straight defeat by Williams and a third loss in grand slam finals to the American champion.
"I've got to congratulate Serena on creating history and on playing some of her best tennis. It's really an honour playing against her," Sharapova, who lost the 2007 final to Williams and the title-decider at the 2013 French Open, said.
"I haven't beaten her in a really long time, but I love every time that I step on the court to play against her because she's been the best and, as a tennis player, you wanna play against the best."
Steamrolled in the opening set, five-times grand slam champion Sharapova was magnificent as she dragged herself off the canvas and staved off defeat twice on match points with brilliant down-the-line winners.
The "un-rivalry" with Williams continues, however, her last win over the American coming when she was a 17-year-old sensation still finding her feet on tour.