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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Australian Open Day 13 Picks 2015- Women's Final Live Blog

I am considering doing a live blog for the women's Final between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams which takes place on Saturday morning and will use this post if I am going to do that.

First of all is my pick for the Final:

Serena Williams - 3.5 games v Maria Sharapova: There is a real feeling that Maria Sharapova won't have a better opportunity to snap her 15 match losing run against Serena Williams than in the Final of the Australian Open when they meet on Saturday.

The form of the two players suggests Sharapova has every chance of finally beating Williams for the first time since the end of the 2004 season, but there is some real mental pressure on the Russian having to overcome all the losses she has taken.

Serena Williams hasn't been at her best in the tournament, but she was producing arguably her best tennis in the last two Rounds and she has only lost one set from the last TWENTY-FOUR that these two have competed against one another. That is another huge mental barrier for Maria Sharapova to break through and she will need Williams to be short of her best if she is going to win this Grand Slam title.

Both players have similarities with the way they approach their tennis- both will look for a big serve to set their points up and have heavy returns off the ground. The forehand and backhands are powerful shots and both players look to dictate the points with those heavy shots to keep their opponent's on the back foot.

So why has Serena Williams dominated the head to head? It does look like Serena has the more consistent serve and won't serve the double faults at the rate that Sharapova does, while her second serve has a little more on it and is tougher to attack. The movement is also in favour of the American who is the slightly better defensive player and even these slight issues give her the edge in the contest.

There is also the added fire that Serena seems to bring to the court when she sees Maria Sharapova on the other side of the net and that has shown up in the head to head. Sharapova will have her chances in this one if she can play first strike tennis, but I do believe Williams is the one that is going to dictate the majority of the rallies and come through this match with a 63, 63 win and add her 19th Grand Slam trophy into the cabinet at home.

It is sod's law that my internet has been playing up a little this morning so I have had to join the live updates after the match has started. Just hit refresh on your browser for the updates.

Serena Williams 4-2* Maria Sharapova: Most people spent the rain delay talking about the illness that Serena Williams has been dealing with and how the delay was going to upset her rhythm.

Coming back out at 30-30 after a short delay is tough to do, but Serena Williams bangs down one big serve and one heavy shot down the line to move ahead by two games.

Serena Williams *5-2 Maria Sharapova: So much for the rain delay being a huge problem for Williams to deal with! Instead it is Sharapova who has been cooled off and who loses 4 straight points on serve to go down a double break.

Serena Williams 5-3* Maria Sharapova: A double fault is followed by a couple of big shots from Maria Sharapova to bring up three break points to save the set.

The first two are saved by big serves from Williams, but another double costs her one of her breaks.

Serena Williams *6-3 Maria SharapovaI was wondering if that break would be a spark for Sharapova in this set, but Williams brings up three set points and then takes advantage of a net cord to take the first of those chances and put up the first set.

As well as Sharapova has played in that set, you have to wonder what her mind set is going to be as she drops another set against Serena Williams.

Big 'come on' from Williams to end that set too so I guess the coughing and illness is still very much at the back of her mind.

Serena Williams 6-3, 1-0* Maria SharapovaThe pressure is going to begin to build and build if Serena Williams continues serving like this- first game is comfortably held thanks to three big serves and then a big forehand down the line on the run.

Serena Williams *6-3, 1-1 Maria SharapovaThe commentators have just been wondering whether Maria Sharapova 'believes she can win' and are adamant that she does until the final point because of the competitor she is. The problem is that no matter how well you compete, the stats of losing 15 straight times to someone is going to play a part and to put that aside mentally is so tough to do.

Serena Williams has Maria Sharapova on the run again in this service game and the match is taking on a familiar pattern when these two players meet on the court as the heavier hitting from the American takes a toll.

Two more break points for Williams- the first is saved by an ace and the second saved by an unreturnable serve!

Another ace and a big forehand gets Sharapova out of the game and potentially a turning point in the match.

Serena Williams 6-3, 2-1* Maria SharapovaBig serving has Maria Sharapova guessing a little bit about the direction it is coming in from and it is an easy hold to love for Serena Williams.

Sharapova is going to feel like she is constantly serving the way Serena rolled through the first two service games of this set. That brings its own pressure when you are playing catch up on the scoreboard too.

Serena Williams *6-3, 2-2 Maria SharapovaBig mistake from Maria Sharapova to not play a Serena Williams mishit that hits the baseline to bring up 15 all.

Another error opened the door for Williams, but big time tennis from Sharapova to stay on serve.

Serena Williams 6-3, 3-2* Maria SharapovaA huge return winner from Sharapova brings up 0-30 and opens the door for the break which is shut by two aces and an unreturned serve.

Another ace from Serena Williams wins the game and another huge 'come on' from the American which is clearly a response to the Sharapova 'come on' which followed the return winner to bring up 0-30.

If you didn't believe me when I said these two don't get on, that game perhaps highlighted a little of the animosity between them.

Serena Williams *6-3, 3-3 Maria SharapovaIt looks like this could be one of the easier service holds that Sharapova has had in the match as she quickly moves 30-0 up, but Serena Williams is going nowhere.

Some solid defensive play coupled with heavy aggressive ground strokes brings up another break point for the Number 1 Seed.

A very brave second serve prevents Williams from really attacking that break point and Sharapova holds on at the moment.

Serena missed a big chance to bring up a second break point when it looked like her defensive skills had paid off, and another unforced error keeps this match on serve.

Serena Williams 6-3, 4-3* Maria SharapovaYou have to admire the Sharapova mindset to come out of that game when it looked like the break was going to go against her.

A huge error from Serena Williams brings up 0-30 again on serve, the second service game in a row that has happened. A sense of deja vu for Sharapova as two big serves, one unreturned and one ace, levels the game and another ace moves Serena in front.

This time it won't be four straight points for Williams though- and then something completely strange has happened where it looks like Serena has game point but is forced to replay way after the fact.

That leads to a break point for Sharapova, but again it is two big serves that has turned the game around and an ace to wrap up the game.

It turns out Sharapova got the point for hindrance, which was surprising because I didn't notice anything in particular Williams did, but she didn't even make a move to argue the case. Still on serve in the second set, but the scoreboard pressure has to be building on Sharapova who continues to play catch up.

Serena Williams *6-3, 4-4 Maria SharapovaTremendous game from Sharapova, even if she did get away with a shocking volley to open it. Hold to 15 at the business end of the set is impressive.

Serena Williams 6-3, 5-4* Maria SharapovaAnything you can do... Big serving from Serena Williams produce a hold to love and now she is on the brink of winning the Australian Open for the first time since 2010.

Been saying it all set, but pressure on Sharapova serving to stay in the match. She has handled playing from behind so well, but I can't help thinking how the match would have felt right now if Sharapova had forced Williams to serve out the first set rather than being broken.

Serena Williams *6-3, 5-5 Maria SharapovaThe way Sharapova has been handling this second set is impressive- from 0-15, a big second serve helps win one point and a huge forehand down the line helps her move in front.

Lack of first serves is an issue and a double fault means Williams is just two points from the title.

The defence of Williams, which I identified as being one of the key differences between the players that has led to this 15 match winning run for the American against Sharapova, forces an error and match point.

Absolutely stunning tennis from Sharapova has kept her in this set and it was only right that it took that kind of tennis for the Russian to save that match point.

Sharapova has gotten away with another drop shot and holds on- she might not be everyone's cup of team, but Sharapova has played so well and has to be admired no matter how this ends up.

Serena Williams 6-3, 6-5* Maria SharapovaSome solid defence from Williams again, but eventually she can't keep the ball in play and a sniff of a chance for Sharapova at 30-30.

Take a guess what happens next? Yep, another ace at a big time for Williams to move ahead in the game, but Sharapova not done with this game just yet.

More big serving from the American, this one followed by a heavy forehand down the line, and then an ace to move back to the brink of the title.

This has been a set full of stunning tennis. Engrossing stuff for the play and also the way the two players are trying to dominate with their personalities with the 'come on' shouts.

Serena Williams 6-3, 6-6 Maria SharapovaIt would be disappointing if Sharapova was to break down here and lose the match- she deserves the chance to play a tie-break after the effort she has put into the set.

But it does mean coming through one more service game- two errors from Williams' racquet and an ace bring up three game points and it is a comfortable hold for the Russian.

Really good tennis from both.

Serena Williams 6-3, 6-6 Maria Sharapova: Clean winner from Maria Sharapova to open the tie-breaker, but the mini-break doesn't last very long after an error from the Number 2 Seed.

Williams returns the favour for the clean winner off serve to move up a mini-break in the breaker and uses a big ace and then a strong forehand to move clear for the first time in this set.

The two switch ends with Williams 4-2 up in the breaker, although Serena will feel she missed a big chance to earn a double mini-break in the final point there. How much more fight does Sharapova have in her?

Mistakes from Serena Williams has kept Sharapova in this breaker, and she does look a little tight at the moment.

There is so much emotion on the court and it is fascinating to see both of these players trying to keep a lid on things! Serena battles through a tough point to move 5-3 up, but another tight forehand error which is very wide of the court and we are back on serve with two to come from Sharapova.

Clean winner off the second serve from Serena Williams and that brings up two match points... Total respect for Sharapova in the manner she saves the first off a huge second serve-forehand combination.

But Serena is serving for the match.

Add to the drama with a let cord preventing the ace winner and a stare at the umpire from Serena Williams who had dropped her racquet! Same serve, another ace and Serena Williams has beaten Maria Sharapova for the 16th in a row to win her 19th Grand Slam title.

Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6: I have so much respect for the way that Maria Sharapova hung in during that second set when she was behind throughout and the battling she displayed in the tie-breaker, but it raises some tough questions for her.

The first is how can Maria Sharapova turn the tide after 16 straight losses to Serena Williams? She produced arguably her best tennis, but still couldn't take a set from the American and there is too much motivation for Serena when she steps on the court against Sharapova.

Williams has been caught cold in Grand Slam tournaments over the last two seasons, but Sharapova won't be someone that will ever have that benefit with their meetings likely to come at the business end of events. Add to that the motivation that Serena Williams clearly has behind her when she sees Sharapova on the other side of the court and it is tough to see this trend changing.

Again it was the defensive ability that Williams has compared to Sharapova and the bigger and more consistent serve that saw her come through. The rest of the game is similar, but those slight edges are enough for Williams to hold the key to winning these head to head matches.

It was a great Final and I hope the rest of the Slams live up to it.

MY PICK: Serena Williams - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (3 Units)

Australian Open Update: 34-23, + 23.66 Units (107 Units Staked, + 22.11% Yield)

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