Serving as inspiration
Serena dedicates Australian victory
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams always takes handwritten notes onto the court, as useful reminders or for motivation.
This time, for the final of the Australian Open, she wrote one word: Yetunde.
Memories of her slain half-sister inspired Williams to a 6-1, 6-2 win over top-seeded Maria Sharapova yesterday -- giving Williams her eighth Grand Slam title, her first since winning here in 2005.
"Usually I write, 'Look at the ball, move forward, do this, do that.' Today I just had one word. My note was just, 'Yetunde.'
"Every changeover I looked at it and I just thought about how happy she would have been . . . about what an amazing sister she was to me. I just said, 'Serena, this has to be more than enough to motivate me.' And I think it was."
Yetunde Price was killed in a drive-by shooting in California in September 2003. Working through a series of injuries and the death of her sister took a toll on Williams, and the domination that she and her sister Venus had on women's tennis eroded.
Her championship yesterday was her first in two years, and only her second in a Grand Slam after completing her "Serena Slam" in Australia in 2003, when she won a fourth consecutive major.
After doing a dance and skipping to the side of the court to exchange high-fives with her mother, Oracene Price, Williams told the crowd of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena about her motivation. "Most of all I would like to dedicate this win to my sister, who's not here. Her name is Yetunde. I just love her so much," she said, her voice cracking. "I'll try not to get teary-eyed, but I said if I win this, it's going to be for her. So thanks, Tunde."
Williams started aggressively and never relented. She only had to save two break points and broke Sharapova's serve twice in each set. She held serve to open the match, then won 12 straight points after Sharapova had a game point in the next game, and jumped to a 4-0 lead. Sharapova said every time she "tried to open a little door to get back in," it was slammed shut.
Roger Federer was set to face a surprise finalist for the second straight year at the Australian Open today. Unlike last time, the top-ranked tennis player was prepared for an ambush.
Federer lost the opening set to Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 12 months ago in Melbourne before recovering to win. In the Aussie Open final, set to begin at 3:30 a.m. today Eastern time, he was to defend his title against another Grand Slam final newcomer in Chile's Fernando Gonzalez.
Federer, 25, was seeking his 10th Grand Slam title and third in a row after winning Wimbledon and the US Open last year. His only loss in 10 previous major finals was to Spain's Rafael Nadal at the 2006 French Open. He was also bidding to become the first man to win a Grand Slam tournament without dropping a set since Sweden's Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros in 1980.
American twins Bob and Mike Bryan skipped their usual celebration ritual -- a big chest bump -- but were jubilant anyway after grabbing their fifth Grand Slam men's doubles title yesterday by beating Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi, 7-5, 7-5.
"It's great to come out and start this year well," Bob Bryan said. "Winning that first one is awesome."
It was the Bryans' fourth straight appearance in the Australian Open final and their second consecutive win. The Bryans, born two minutes apart April 29, 1978, in Camarillo, Calif., completed a career Grand Slam at Wimbledon last year.
Junior world champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova added another Grand Slam title to her already impressive record yesterday.
Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the singles finals at three Grand Slams last year (winning two), beat Madison Brengle of Dover, Del., 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-3). Pavlyuchenkova won six singles and four doubles titles in 2006 and was a doubles finalist at all four majors.
The 15-year-old Russian successfully defended her Australian Open junior crown in two tiebreaker sets.
In the boys' singles final, Brydan Klein, a 17-year-old Australian, beat No. 2 Jonathan Eysseric of France, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.