Sharapova wins Australian Open
Monday, 28 January 2008

Agence France-Presse . Melbourne

Russian fifth seed Maria Sharapova won the Australian Open final against fourth seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 7-5, 6-3 Saturday, claiming her third Grand Slam title. Sharapova, a losing finalist here last year, adds the Australian title to the Wimbledon crown she won in 2004 and her 2006 US Open.

Ivanovic battled gamely but Sharapova's powerful serve ultimately proved the difference in a 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) cauldron at the Rod Laver Arena, winning in one hour 31 minutes.

A flurry of unforced errors, 33 to Sharapova's 15, did not help Ivanovic's cause and the partisan 15,000-strong crowd was unable to cheer her to victory in the decider.

The Serb showed no sign of the nerves that crippled her in the French Open final last year and drew first blood as the pair, both 20, probed for weaknesses in the opening game, blasting an ace as Sharapova netted two returns.

But the pumped-up Russian held Ivanovic to love her first four service games, running Ivanovic around with blistering groundstrokes and not hesitating to attack the net and leave her opponent with nowhere to go. She seized a break in the fifth game as Ivanovic put too much power on her forehand, spraying her returns wide.

The Serb's radar finally kicked in and she scored her first point off Sharapova's serve in the fifth game after 22 minutes, going on to break back after Sharapova double faulted twice. Sharapova recovered to break Ivanovic again three games later, then served out the set after 49 minutes.

She maintained her aggression in the second, stretching Ivanovic to break point in an opening game that lasted 11 minutes but the Serb hung on, desperately chasing down returns to maintain a toehold in the match.

The decisive break came in the seventh game and Ivanovic's resistance finally faltered when Sharapova earned three match points in her next service game. She saved one chance but hit a forehand return wide to give the Russian victory.

The Russian slumped to the court in tears, then rushed over the shake hands with father Yuri in the stands.

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