For the second time, Serena Williams, world number two, unmercifully disposed of a Russian in the Australian Open final. On this occasion, the hapless victim of Williams’ wrath was third rank Dinara Safina. Serena required just 58 minutes to defeat Dinara 6-0, 6-3, adding a fourth Australian singles title to her majors’ trophy case for a total of ten.
Williams started the match by hitting a backhand winner up the line and holding comfortably. On the other hand, Safina’s nightmare began with her first service game. After an ace for 15 all, Dinara threw in a double fault for 15-30. After a couple of forehand winners gave her the upper hand, Safina produced a second double fault for deuce. Subsequently, Williams crushed a forehand for a crosscourt service winner to get her first break point which she converted when Safina committed her third double fault. Then, Serena consolidated the break with a love game. Williams maintained the pressure and with a forehand winner up the line had double break point; she capitalized by putting away a short ball. Up 4-0, Serena again held at love and with four consecutive unforced errors by Dinara took the set 6-0.
Serena briefly loosen her chokehold on the match in the second set. After Williams sent a backhand into the net and missed another down the line, Safina had her initial break point. With a sweet crosscourt backhand winner, Safina took the lead for the first time. The last few months, Dinara had demonstrated that she could deal with adversity. Thus, this seemed perhaps a turning point in the match. Yet, after Dinara missed the mark on two backhands, Serena arrived at double break point and leveled the set when another of her rival’s backhand sailed long. The serve was the story for Safina and it did not improve as the night progressed. Serving at 1-2, Dinara opened with a double fault. After a backhand crosscourt winner gave her game point, another found the net for deuce. Thereafter, Serena punished a crosscourt forehand return winner for break point and cashed it in when Dinara made another double fault. With a love game, Williams raced to a 4-1 lead. Frustrated, on the verge of bursting into tears and despite difficulties, Safina won her service games. Yet, this was to no avail as Serena continued to force the errors from her competitor with her brutal serves. With her fifth love game, Serena put Dinara out of her agony and claimed the title.
Both women had their Houdini moment in the round of 16. For Serena, it came against Victoria Azarenka who retired up a set but down a break in the second due to dizziness. Safina recovered from a set down and a double break deficit in the third to prevail against Alize Cornet. Moreover, Williams had a close call in the quarterfinals. Serena broke Svetlana Kuznetsova who was serving for the match to stay alive. With Jelena Jankovic losing in the round of 16 to Marion Bartoli, Serena now regains the number one ranking. In addition, since 2002-03, it’s the first time Williams has won consecutive majors. Superstition aside, Serena seems to have her best results down under on uneven years. If that pattern remains consistent, the crown may be hers next in 2011.