Sharapova takes care of business to complete return to the top

Maria Sharapova is only seven months older than Ana Ivanovic, but Saturday's Australian Open final might have been a contest between a veteran and a novice. Sharapova did not play at her best but did not need to. In her own words, her 7-5, 6-3 win was all about "taking care of business".

Ivanovic, playing in her second Grand Slam final, did not suffer from the nerves that ruined her chances against Justine Henin at Roland Garros last summer, but her game slowly disintegrated under the sheer weight of Sharapova's consistency. The Russian played within herself, forcing Ivanovic to play the extra ball and waiting for the errors that she knew the Serb would make.

If the final itself was a disappointment, the value of Sharapova's third Grand Slam title should not be underestimated. A tricky early match against a former champion, Lindsay Davenport, was followed by encounters with three of the world's top four – Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Ivanovic – yet Sharapova won the tournament without dropping a set. She lost only 32 games, the fewest conceded by a female singles champion here for 20 years.

"You have to raise your game against better players," Sharapova said. "Lindsay knows how to win big matches and I knew in the second round that I had to raise my game. You have to know she's a great player, but you have to do what you have to do. It was the same against Justine. She has all the experience, but the number one thing is not to worry about who you're playing. If I take care of my business, I can beat anyone. I have that confidence.

"This is one of the toughest draws I've had. I'm more pleased that I know realistically it's possible to keep a high level and play amazing tennis through seven matches and to believe in myself. I knew I played Justine at a very high level and that that intensity was bound to drop in the next match. It was important to be conscious of that and to handle it."

Twenty is no age to be making a comeback, but Sharapova said this felt like a second phase of her career, particularly after her long struggles with a shoulder injury last year. Even when she reached the final here 12 months ago she left in tears after being swept away by Serena Williams.

"Success the second time is a lot sweeter," Sharapova said. "I've proved I can come back from having setbacks and negative thoughts and doubts and wondering where my injury was taking me."

The French Open, the only Grand Slam title she has yet to win, is now a major goal. "It's one of the biggest challenges to win it, but that's what drives me," Sharapova said. "I'm getting better and feeling stronger. I'm holding my ground on the clay, my body is developing and I think I have a great chance."

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...