MIAMI: World No. 1 Serena Williams rallied to defeat world No. 2 Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 on Saturday in the WTA Miami Masters final, winning the event for a record sixth time to claim her 48th career tour title.
Williams, who had shared the all-time Miami women’s title mark with Steffi Graf, won the last 10 games in adding to a trophy haul that included crowns in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008 and runner-up efforts in 1999 and 2009.
“It’s so good to win number six,” Williams said.
“Start of the tournament, I definitely didn’t feel like I would be here, not with the way I was playing. But it definitely feels good to go through everything.”
It was the 11th match victory in a row for Williams over Sharapova, coming in their first meeting as the top two players in the world rankings, and gave the 31-year-old American a 12-2 edge in their all-time rivalry.
“She definitely pushed me,” Williams said.
“I definitely look forward to our next matches.”
Sharapova took a set off Williams for the first time since 2008 and was up a break in the second set before the reigning Olympic, Wimbledon and US Open champion roared back to break the Russian in her last five service games.
“I certainly put myself in a much better position today,” Sharapova said.
“I had my chances. There’s no reason why I couldn’t win the match. I was playing, not well enough to win the match, obviously, but it was a step in the right direction and there’s no doubt that we’ll be playing many more times.
“There’s no doubt I’ll be able to beat her.”
Williams became only the fourth woman in the modern era to win the same event six times, joining Graf, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
“I’m happy to be here holding the championship,” Williams said.
“It’s definitely not my best tournament but the moments that count is when you can go and do the best you can and still come out on top and always try to improve.”
Williams, a 15-time Grand Slam singles champion, also became the oldest women’s champion in Miami history, four months older than Evert when the legend won here in 1986 at 31 years and two months of age.
“It’s really cool,” Williams said.
“I’m really happy to have something going right now, so it’s exciting.” Sharapova, 25, suffered her fifth championship-match loss at Miami and still looks for her first Miami title after having been denied a 29th career WTA triumph.
Four-time Grand Slam title winner Sharapova had won 11 matches in a row without dropping a set since losing to Williams in a Doha semi-final, including a title earlier this month at Indian Wells.
Sharapova missed a chance to match Graf and Kim Clijsters as the only women to win at Indian Wells and Miami in the same year.
“It has been a really nice month,” Sharapova said.
“I’m disappointed to end it like this but Serena played a really great match. I’m sure we will be playing a few more times this year.”
Sharapova’s only two victories over Williams came in 2004 in the Wimbledon final and the WTA Los Angeles final.
Sharapova broke in the ninth game of the match, a double fault and netted forehand by Williams giving the Russian a 5-4 edge. Sharapova then held at love and claimed the first set when Williams sent a forehand long.
Williams, who made 20 unforced errors to 15 winners in the opening set, smacked her bench with her racquet during a changeover after her 13-set win streak over Sharapova for the past five years was snapped.
“I was just making so many errors,” Williams said. “It 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 was as energized as I could be. I may have done too much work yesterday, may have hit too long, done too much gym.”