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Serena Williams Silences Sharapova for a record Sixth Sony Open Title

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Serena Williams Silences Sharapova for a record Sixth Sony Open Title

Serena Williams repelled Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 to win her sixth trophy at the Sony Open surpassing Steffi Graff with whom she was previously tied.

Williams had already made Sony Open history in the semifinals with the most victories on the women side, 60. Now, she wanted to stand in a league of her own by also capturing the trophy.

But, it was Sharapova in search of her first Sony Open crown, after failing four previous times, who handled the breezy conditions and the bright sun well early on. Subsequent to wasting three break point chances in a marathon eleven minute game, Sharapova fabricated a fourth in the fifth service game.

On that occasion when Williams’ backhand found the net, Sharapova converted the break for 3-2. However, the world number one applied the necessary pressure to bank the next game and square the set at 3 all.

Williams was not at her best on serve, frequently catching her toss and shading her eyes. In the ninth game, Williams double faulted to gift Sharapova a break point. When on the following point Williams dumped a forehand crosscourt into the net, Sharapova was in front 5-4.

With a love game replete with miscues by Williams, Sharapova sealed the first set. At that point, a visibly annoyed Williams slammed her racket against her chair, her wakeup call.

With an ace, Williams capped a love hold to start the second set. Then, by pushing Sharapova around, she got the break for 2-0.

Yet, a bevy of mistakes by Williams led to an ephemeral lead as Sharapova fabricated triple break point. As Williams fumbled another forehand, the players were back on serve.

Later, Sharapova set up triple break point once more with a backhand winner. By winning the fifth game, at 3-2, Sharapova was three holds from grabbing the elusive title and completing the rare feat of hoisting both the Indian Wells and Miami trophies. It has only been accomplished three times, last by Kim Clijsters in 2005.

Again though, Williams found the emergency brake. With two consecutive winners and a stellar return, Williams was at triple break point. As Sharapova’s stroke kissed the net’s bottom, the second set was leveled at 3 all.

Later courtesy of a double fault, Williams had a break point. She took a 5-3 lead when Sharapova committed another forehand error. Williams closed out the second set with an ace.

The decisive set became a nightmare for Sharapova. In the opening game, the world number two could not stave off double break point. Subsequent to Williams consolidating for 2-0, Sharapova threw in two successive double faults to provide her rival with an insurance break.

Williams pushed the cruise control button, capitalizing on a seventh break point to make it 100% conversion for the match and 5-0. Williams went on a ten game in a row tear to close out the championship.

Sharapova has gone down to Williams now in eleven successive encounters. She last triumphed in 2004. Today, in their maiden meeting in the final in Miami, Sharapova felt she wasted too many chances particularly in the second set “ I still had opportunities to get back at 3-4. I was up 40-15 and Love-30 in the next game. . . those are the games that you really need to keep challenging out there and keep being in them. . .those are the chances that you will have to take . . .if you want to win the match”.

Despite her heavy schedule up to this point, Sharapova cited fatigue was not a factor “ I feel fine. I’m very happy, very fortunate that I’ve been able to play. . . I have had a really great month and I think I can only take positives out of it, really”.

Clay is the next stop for the women’s tour. As the defending French Open champion, Sharapova is looking forward to Paris “when you experience such a nice moment in your career, to be able to come back there and to play on that court again where you lifted the trophy, it’s always special and meaningful. Especially for the amount of years that you’ve worked so hard to get to that point. I’ll treat it as any other title that maybe I haven’t won and really want to win because I would love to win it again”.

For the match, Williams’ first serve percentage was 51. She fired 35 winners and 32 unforced errors and was behind 4-6, 2-3. Sharapova connected on 64% of her first serves, struck 13 winners and 23 unforced errors.

The statistics explain Williams’ surprise in pulling off the victory “I honestly can’t say right now [how I turned it around]. I just feel everything was going so fast. . . I was just making so many errors. I just was like, Serena, are you really going to get to the final and not play up to your potential? I don’t think I had enough energy. I think I may have done too much work yesterday, may have hit too long, done too much gym”.

Williams’ strategy to get back into the match “at one point, I was just like, conserve your energy and try and relax and play better”. The serve was not a weapon today. Williams was hitting the first ball at times at 79 mph “I honestly have not served great this whole tournament, if you look at the stats. It hasn’t been my best week serving wise. Usually in the later rounds, I’m able to pick it up and do a little better. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that today, so I had to rely on other parts of my game”.

Williams has eyed that sixth trophy since 2009 when she lost to Victoria Azarenka in the final. This week, she even biked to the tournament to assure she would make her third round match.

Now, Williams will shift her focus to the clay in search of a companion for her lonely 2008 French Open trophy, the only major she possesses just one of. Clay is perhaps Williams’ most challenging surface. But, she does not view it as such “I think it’s only as hard as you say it is. I happen to love Roland Garros and I’m happy to play there. Hopefully I can just take it one match at a time. That’s in the future. I’m just going to do it one step at a time”.

Today’s performance by Williams qualifies as “winning ugly”. If on her worst day, Williams can walk away with the Sony Open, her 16th major, a second French Open may not be far behind.

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Serena Williams Routs Radwanska to Claim Spot in Sony Open Final

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Serena Williams Routs Radwanska to Claim Spot in Sony Open Final

An unstoppable Serena Williams dismantled defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-3 to secure her eighth appearance in the final at the Sony Open and with her 60th victory moved past Steffi Graff as the winningest female in Miami.

The world number one came out with her guns blazing. The crowd had barely taken its seat when Williams posted a double break edge on the scoreboard.

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Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Azarenka, Serena and Sharapova Headline 2013 Sony Open

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Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Azarenka, Serena and Sharapova Headline 2013 Sony Open

The Sony Open will be played in Miami March 18 through March 31 at the Crandon Park Tennis Center. In anticipation of the 2013 Sony Open, the tournament has released the men’s and women’s entry list.

Novak Djokovic, the 2013 Australian Open champion, returns to Miami to defend his 2012 title. Djokovic is looking for a place in the record books by attempting to win three straight Miami titles. The only player to have won the title three years in a row is Andre Agassi (2001 – 2003). Also joining Djokovic in Miami are Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. Absent from the roster this year is Roger Federer who has decided to limit his play in 2013 and in the process will be skipping the Sony Open.

On the women’s side Victoria Azarenka, the 2013 Australian Open champion, will be looking to add another title in Miami. Azarenka has won the title in Miami on two occasions. Agnieszka Radwanska will also be in Miami attempting to defend her 2012 Sony Open title. Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams also highlight the women’s field. A title in Miami by Williams will break the record for most titles by a women in Miami. Williams is currently tied with Steffi Graf with 5 Miami titles.

Below is the official press release from the Sony Open :


Reigning Grand Slam Champions Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Williams, Sharapova and Azarenka all entered to play.

MIAMI, Fla. (www.sonyeopentennis.com) – The ATP and WTA entry lists for the 2013 Sony Open were announced today and the tournament will once again feature a Grand Slam caliber player field.

Click Here to View Full Lists

Each spring the Sony Open brings the greatest tennis players in the world to the Crandon Park Tennis Center and 2013 is no different. The Sony Open field features several Grand Slam champions including reigning singles champions Novak Djokovic (Australian Open), Rafael Nadal (French Open), Andy Murray (US Open), Victoria Azarenka (Australian Open), Maria Sharapova (French Open) and Serena Williams (Wimbledon and US Open).

Tickets to the 2013 Sony Open, which will be played March 18-31 at the Crandon Park Tennis Center, are on sale now and can be purchased by phone (305-442-3367) or online at www.sonyopentennis.com. An electrifying two weeks of tennis conclude with the women’s final on Saturday, March 30 and the men’s final on Sunday, March 31.

Qualifying rounds will be played March 18-19 and will determine 12 more slots in each singles draw. The tournament will also award wildcards to five men and eight women. The main draw begins on Tuesday, March 19 as the women take the court, followed by the beginning of the men’s main draw on Wednesday, March 20.

Djokovic returns to Miami seeking a three-peat, having won the trophy in 2012 and 2011. He brought home his first Sony Open title in 2007. On the women’s side, 15-time Grand Slam champ and Olympic Gold Medalist, Serena Williams returns on a mission for a record-breaking sixth Sony Open title, but both contenders will face a tough field in their quest for Sony Open history.

On the men’s side, 11-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, recently made his return to the court and is entered to play his 10th consecutive Sony Open. Nadal, a three-time finalist, will attempt to capture his first title on the purple courts. Andy Murray, the 2009 Sony Open champion, will look to bounce back from last year’s final appearance and take home the coveted trophy.

The women’s field is also extremely competitive, featuring American Sloane Stephens, who made her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance this year, which included a win over Serena Williams at the Australian Open. Two-time Sony Open winner Victoria Azarenka, comimg off here second consecutive Australian Open title, seeks her third Sony Open title in five years. Also a favorite to capture her first Sony Open title is the ever-popular Maria Sharapova, who last year completed the career Grand Slam with her French Open victory.

With such a tremendous player field one might forget that the Sony Open is more than just tennis and has become the standard for first-class sporting events. High fashion, great food, fabulous shopping and celebrity musical performances have made the Sony Open the most glamorous stop on tour.

Come see why huge crowds as well as the biggest names in music, entertainment and sports visit the Sony Open each March. Get your tickets today.

ABOUT THE SONY OPEN: The 2013 Sony Open will be played March 18-April 31 at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park in Miami. The two-week combined event is owned and operated by IMG. The Sony Open is one of nine ATP Masters 1000 Series events on the ATP calendar, a Premier Mandatory event on the WTA calendar, and features the top men’s and women’s tennis players in the world. In 2012 Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray for his third Sony Open title, while Agnieszka Radwanska knocked off Maria Sharapova to capture her first title in Miami. For ticket information, call (305) 442-3367 or visit the website at www.SonyOpenTennis.com

ABOUT SONY MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS: Sony Mobile Communications is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation, a leading global innovator of audio, video, game, communications, key device and information technology products for both the consumer and professional markets. Through its Xperia™ smartphone portfolio, Sony Mobile Communications delivers the best of Sony technology, premium content and services, and easy connectivity to Sony’s world of networked entertainment experiences. For more information: www.sonymobile.com

ABOUT IMG: IMG Worldwide is a global sports, entertainment and media business, with nearly 3,000 employees operating in 30 countries around the globe. IMG’s areas of expertise are diverse and wide ranging: IMG College; IMG’s Joint Ventures in China, Brazil and India; IMG Media; IMG Events and Federations; IMG Fashion; IMG Models; IMG Art+Commerce; IMG

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Serena Williams Wards Off Azarenka for a Fourth U.S. Open Title

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Serena Williams Wards Off Azarenka for a Fourth U.S. Open Title

In the final at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams held off world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 to grab her fourth U.S. Open trophy and her 15th career major

With singles and doubles prizes at both Wimbledon and the Olympics, it has been a dream summer for Williams. Moreover, she’s demolished the field to reach the final this fortnight.

Azarenka had the harder road in booking her maiden appearance in the final in New York. The Belarusian fought past defending champion Stosur in the quarterfinals and survived another three setter in the semifinals against Maria Sharapova.

After closing out the opening game with an ace, Williams manufactured love-40. Even though Azarenka managed to get to deuce, Serena arrived at a fifth break point with a backhand lob winner.

When Azarenka’s backhand sailed long, Williams captured the break. Soon, with another quick game, Williams consolidated for 3-0.

Surrendering only six points on her serve, at 5-2, Williams broke Azarenka at love to bed the first set in 34 minutes.

Williams and Azarenka clashed on ten prior occasions, with the former winning nine of those encounters. Consequently, it seemed like 2008, Williams would cruise to the title without dropping a set. But, Azarenka demonstrated why she is the reigning Australian Open champion.

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Berdych and Verdasco Make the Cut, Roddick and Company Wipe Out

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Berdych and Verdasco Make the Cut, Roddick and Company Wipe Out

With the quarterfinal spots at stake, after nearly five hours, the stormy weather cleared to allow play at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.  While Tomas Berdych, the number one seed, and Fernando Verdasco, the third seed, battled their way into the next round.  For the Americans, the tournament was a disaster.  Andy Roddick, the three time champion and second seed, 2007 finalist John Isner as well as 2010 Atlanta champion Mardy Fish were all swept away.

Isner, the fifth seed, squared off against Xavier Malisse.  In March at their initial meeting in Houston, Malisse prevailed in three tiebreaker sets. In the beginning stages of the first set, Malisse had a few break points.  However, Isner promptly brushed those aside.  Later at 4 all, Malisse obtained the break which permitted him to take the set.  But, in the second set, Malisse double faulted on break point to give Isner a 2-1 edge. As usual, this was the minute window the American required to push the match to a third set.  In the third game, Isner had two break point chances, yet converted none.  For his part, with Isner serving at 4 all, Malisse failed to capitalized on love 40.  Thus, the tiebreaker was called upon.  At 5 all, Isner miscalculated an overhead which resulted in the ball landing on his side of the court.  With a mini-break/match point in hand, Malisse connected on a good serve.  With Isner botching the return, Malisse punched his ticket into the subsequent round with  a 6-4,3-6,7-6 win.

Despite recently turning 30, Malisse is enjoying great success the last few months. MiamiTennisNews asked:

Q. Although you are getting on in years, you are playing pretty good tennis.  What keeps you motivated?
Malisse: I had two years of injuries, when you are sidelined and everyone else is playing it hurts. Sometimes you say that you want  a couple of weeks off, when it’s [not on your own terms], it really gets to you . . . Since I had two easy years, I feel I am healthy now . . . The road back has been tough playing challenger last year after being in nice tournaments in nice places. . . But it feels so much more satisfying now . . . Before, I was just playing, not really enjoying it.

At Wimbledon, Malisse teamed up with Kim Clijsters and made it to the quarterfinals in mixed doubles.  MiamiTennisNews inquired:

Q. Do the two of you  plan to do the same at the U.S. Open?
Malisse: I don’t think so.  We have not talked about it. It’s harder considering it’s five sets . . . We had a good time and laughed a lot in [London], that’s the most important thing.

The first set went along swimmingly for Malisse’s quarterfinal opponent, Berdych against Andrey Golubev.  After securing the break in the third game, Berdych cruised on serve.  Nevertheless, serving to send the second set into a tiebreaker, Berdych dropped serve at love.  In the decisive set, Berdych broke for 3-2.  Though, serving for the match and ahead 30-0, Berdych surrendered four straight points to enable Golubev back in.  Still, Berdych managed to break once more and hold for a 6-3,5-7,7-5 victory.

First round at Wimbledon, Berdych faced Golubev and send him packing in straight sets. Hence, MiamiTennisNews wanted to know:

Q.  Why was it so difficult to close Golubev out this time around?
Berdych: He’s really improved [in the last couple of weeks].  He won his first [title] in Hamburg which is a big tournament . . . Even before, he’s had a couple of good results . . . Hardcourt is going to be the best surface for him. . . The conditions, the fast courts suit his game . . .

The Sony Ericsson Open was a pivotal point in Berdych’s career.  Since, he’s had extraordinary results at the French Open and Wimbledon.  MiamiTennisNews questioned whether Berdych felt the same way.

Q.  In making the final in South Florida, did that give you the mental boost to propel you to additional success?
Berdych:  Yes. . .  But not only the tournament in Miami. It started the Davis Cup week right before Indian Wells. . . I won a couple of matches . . . Then at Indian Wells, I made the quarters which showed me even if I am . . .  not playing  well, I can [have] good results which gave me a lot of confidence. . . Coming to Miami which is really my favorite tournament . . . The key match against Roger [Federer] turning it around match point down . . . [getting] to the final . . .  I am happy I can keep the form, keep the consistency and bring more and more good results.

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Serena Williams Carves Her Place Along Side the Elites with Her 13th Major

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Serena Williams Carves Her Place Along Side the Elites with Her 13th Major

Undisputedly, Serena Williams adores the spotlight and Wimbledon is the Oscars of the tennis stage.  In the finals at the All England Club,  defending champion Williams overpowered Vera Zvonareva, the 21st seed, 6-3,6-2 to win her fourth Wimbledon trophy and her thirteenth major overall surpassing the great Billie Jean King.

Zvonareva was making her debut in the finals at a major and Williams did not rely on first timer jitters to knock out her opponent.  In 2004, an intrepid teenage newcomer seeded 13th, Maria Sharapova stunned world number one Williams to take the Wimbledon title.  From the very first game, Serena demonstrated that she had learned her lesson.  With a backhand down the line winner, Williams held at love to open the match.  Showing no nervousness, Zvonareva carried her first game easily.  Despite throwing in two double faults and being pushed to deuce the next couple of games, Serena guarded serve to stay ahead 3-2.  When Zvonareva’s forehand up the line landed out of play, Williams had her first break point.  However, Zvonareva forced the miscues from Serena to level the set at 3 a piece. After Serena had no trouble guarding serve, Zvonareva double faulted on game point for deuce.  With a nice lob, Serena obtained another mistake from Zvonareva for her second break point of the game.  With an incredible running forehand up the line winner, Serena broke for 5-3.  Then, on her third set point, Serena caused Zvonareva to flub another forehand to pocket the set.

Under pressure, Zvonareva’s troubles multiplied in the second set.  By dumping a backhand crosscourt into the net, Serena earned a break point the first game.  When Zvonareva’s forehand missed its destination, Serena took the initial game.  Subsequently, with a backhand volley winner, Serena consolidated for a 2-0 edge.  From that point on, Serena never removed her foot from the accelerator.  With another smoking running forehand, Serena provoked a forehand miscue from Zvonareva for double break point in the fifth game.  Although Zvonareva saved those two, she sent another forehand into the net giving Serena a third chance.  This time Williams did not have to strike the ball, by double faulting, Zvonareva gifted her a 4-1 lead.  The remainder of the match, Serena surrendered just one point on her serve and with a love game to capture the championship.

After the match, Zvonareva had nothing but praise for her rival “you’re a great player and a great champion … you’ve shown great determination throughout the week”.  The Russian conceded “I’m a little disappointed . . . [but] Serena did not allow me to show my best”.  Zvonareva could not manufacture one break point.  Williams connected on 66% of her first serves and won 94% of those points. In addition, Serena did not loose a set on as she claimed the title.

Since the pain is still fresh, Zvonareva said it’s hard to see the positives. But the Russian admitted that when she reflects in a couple of hours, she will have a better perspective.  After all, “I’ve been dreaming of playing Wimbledon since I was a kid”.  Considering the hardship that Zvonareva has gone through the last year with her ankle injury, “I was doubting that I was going to ever play”.  Zvonareva expressed her gratitude to the people who have stuck by her and aided her to arrive at this moment including her surgeon who was present. Indeed, for Zvonareva, there’s a ton to be proud of.

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Quiet On The Court Please

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Quiet On The Court Please

img_1680If I were to pen a riddle about this topic it would go something like this: what sound is a sign of severe respiratory distress in a child or preparation for speech in babies, yet is a source of annoyance to spectators viewing a tennis match? If you were to guess grunting, you would be on the ball.

One would have to be deaf not to have noticed that the courts on the WTA circuit are somewhat quieter the last few months. This is due to the conspicuous absence of Maria Sharapova. The Siberian diva and her signature ear-piercing grunt have been sidelined for the rest of the season by a shoulder injury. Although Sharapova is an extreme and expert poster child for that note, the men are not immune. Rafael Nadal seems to have taken lessons from some of the great Spanish tenors. Nowadays, grunting has become commonplace on tour. Just like voices, the sound varies in intensity and cadence. Undoubtedly, the player who opened the laryngeal gates and brought grunting into the spotlight was Serbian Monica Seles. This tone turned out to be such a distraction that at the 1992 Wimbledon finals, Seles was asked to keep the decibel down which may have thrown off her rhythm and cost her the match against Steffi Graff. Perhaps, Seles’ inability to vocalize may have dampened the weight of her shots. After all, tennis players are creatures of habit and a bit superstitious.

Facing Andre Agassi in the 1982 semifinal at the U.S Open, Czech Ivan Lendl cited that his opponent’s grunting was a mental distraction particularly considering it had never been an issue he had previously encountered. Luckily, Lendl was able to focus enough and win the match. Although athletes are famous for their powers of concentration, it is hard to fathom how a noise which can seem as loud as a subway train is not a disturbance. Therefore, it leaves one to wonder whether all this ruckus is really necessary.

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A Determined Serena Successfully Defends Sony Ericsson Title

The Sony Ericsson women’s final turned out to be a three set skirmish between Serbian Jelena Jankovic, the fourth seed and Serena Williams, the eight seed. Despite Jankovic leading 3-2 in their head to head, Williams, as the defending champion, was the favorite. Unworthy of being labeled a classic, but Williams hung on to win 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.

Looking fitter than last year, Williams was smoking with seven winners in the first two games. With Jelena having difficulty with her first serve, Williams pounced on the second. For her part, Williams was deft at coming up with powerful and well-placed serves, essentially service winners. At this juncture, Jankovic’s strategy of concentrating on Williams’ forehand, the unsteadier shot, was unsuccessful. In the sixth game, after Jankovic kicked in her second double fault, Williams cashed in on a double break point opportunity and went up 5-1. Then, Serena put away an overhead and served an ace placing punctuation on the first set 6-1.

In the second set, with Jankovic serving, a series of unforced errors permitted Williams to take a 1-0 lead. Unwilling to resign herself, Jelena produced a wry smile in an attempt to diffuse the stress. But, Williams continued to apply pressure, going up 3-0. With Serena up a double break, it appeared that the Serbian would make a prompt exit. Yet, in the fourth game, with a beautiful backhand winner down the line, Jelena had triple break point, she narrowed the gap 3-1. A jubilant crowd, craving more tennis, acknowledged her effort with a standing ovation. Subsequently, Williams had three break chances, but great defense by Jankovic, including a split on the hardcourt, stopped her from converting. Nevertheless, in the tenth game, Serena had the championship on her racket. Williams double faulted and missed two uncomplicated volleys to extend the match 5-5. Once again though, Serena had multiple break opportunities, but with two first-class first serves, Jelena got it to deuce. Disgusted, Williams began to ramble then splayed another error gifting Jankovic the game. At 5-6, Serena tried to prolong the set with a tiebreak. Akin to the first, the second set ended with a double fault, this time from Serena. Could this be a reversal of fortunes? Last year, Justine Henin breezed through the first set. Henin was serving for the match when Williams broke her, stole the second and eventually grabbed the title.

With momentum clearly on the Serbian’s side, Williams rebounded nicely in the third set. After squandering a 15-40 lead and giving Jelena a game point with her 36th unforced error, a despondent and frustrated Williams produced a great defensive backhand pass and an overhead winner to secure the break. Play was paused briefly when Jankovic called for the doctor because she felt “lightheaded [and her] head is going to explode”. A moment of lighthearted banter occurred when the physician asked Jankovic if she was on antibiotics. Jelena replied, with a twisted grin: “don’t you remember, you gave them to me”. When play resumed, Serena widen her lead 5-0. But, the scrappy, ever resilient Serb overcame a match point and managed to break 5-1. In the longest game of the match, 17 points, Jelena saved a championship point and needed five deuces before winning it. As Serena served, with her 43rd winner, she had triple championship point. But, she was denied by a combination of double faults, miss timed forehands and over hit volleys. Incredulous of the unfolding scenario, Serena let out a piercing scream. Quickly though, Serena erased any vision of her poor play with three consecutive winners which gave her triple break point. After shanking two returns, Williams put away an overhead and consolidated the win 6-3.

Although Serena had three times as many winners (48 to 16), she produced 55 unforced errors while Jankovic had far fewer. Jelena managed to keep the match close by saving 14 of 22 break points and converting 5 of 10 break chances. By prevailing, Williams earned her fifth Miami trophy, tying her with Steffi Graff as the tournaments’ foremost winners.

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