They think it's all Sharapova ...it is now

From Russia with blonde ambition, the new court princess sweeps queen Serena aside

Wimbledon's Centre Court, that cockpit of history and drama, has never seen a more dramatic women's final than yesterday's stunning victory of Maria Sharapova, the long-tressed 17-year-old blonde from Moscow, via Siberia and Florida. Sharapova, a 7-2 long-shot against the odds-on defending champion, Serena Williams, deservedly triumphed in straight sets, 6-1 6-4, trouncing a woman who was bidding for a hat-trick of titles.

As Serena slammed the last of a stream of forehand errors into the net after one hour and 13 minutes, Sharapova fell to her knees in disbelief on the baseline, head in hands. Then, still kneeling, awareness of the need to showboat a little surfaced. She thrust both arms rigidly aloft and then opened her eyes to find the dethroned champion sportingly walking round the net to embrace and congratulate her.

The new queen of Wimbledon then walloped a ball she had been carrying inside her skirt high into the crowd in the bright sunshine and climbed through the spectators, up towards the players' box where her father and coach, Yuri, doffed his cap almost in deference before hugging Maria for a full minute.

Borrowing a mobile phone from dad, Sharapova then returned to court, blowing kisses in the manner of Andre Agassi, and attempted to call her mother at their home in Bradenton, Florida, while the Duke of Kent stood patiently waiting to hand her the Venus Rosewater Dish and a cheque for £560,500.

The new sensation of women's tennis now moves into the world's top 10, and she may soon be enjoying the view from the very summit of the rankings at this rate. From the summit of the world's earners, too, for this teenager is Anna Kournikova with ability and the killer touch as well.

Offered her chance to seize the moment against an opponent who remains short of form after eight months out following a knee operation in August last year, Sharapova grabbed it with both hands. If the two-time champion and winner of six Grand Slams got knocked aside in the process, too bad. This was the moment the Russian had dreamed about, winning her favourite tournament.

Mercifully, the match was free of interruptions. The wretched weather of the past 12 days might never have been as the finalists, both clad entirely in white, went at it ferociously. If Maria was nervous, it didn't show. She struck the ball flat, deep and accurately, running Serena from side to side.

From the very first game the Williams reputation looked under threat. Not only were the Russian's groundstrokes deadly, Serena's hitting was suspect, particularly on the forehand, which betrayed her time and again. Her range-finder, never the best in the women's game, was seriously out of kilter. Usually Serena's power overrides the errors, but she never succeeded in getting off the back foot, particularly after Sharapova broke serve to go 3-1 ahead. Three of the points which earned that break will go down as Williams errors, but in truth she resembled someone in the trenches under violent bombardment, grunting in despair as another projectile homed in on her.

Exultant and confident, Sharapova strode around imperiously, frequently taking time between points to compose herself at the back of the court, and keeping Serena waiting in the process, a wait which was to undermine Serena's usually iron-clad attitude. As errant Williams forehands continued, Sharapova broke again to go 5-1 up. She needed four break- points to achieve it. The first three seeped away on a brace of Sharapova errors, followed by a rare piece of serve-volley brilliance from Serena. On the fourth chance, Serena's nerve-ends were exposed. The first serve was a fault and the second, trundling over the net at 81 miles an hour, was murdered by the ruthless Russian.

Serving for the set tested Maria's resolve, too. There were the first indications of waywardness and uncertainty as the Williams counter-attack gathered pace, garnering two break-points. Sharapova clawed both back, one on the luckiest of net cords. There was a third break-back opportunity for Serena, but that dodgy forehand betrayed her yet again, dumping a service return into the netting.

This was the key game of the match. Three times Sharapova got to set point, each time she faltered, twice on errors - one a double-fault - and once when the American struck a glorious cross-court backhand. But when a fourth set point came along, Williams obliged by netting a forehand. It was greeted by a mighty roar for a set which, seemingly hours long, had in fact lasted just 30 minutes. Sharapova had won five games in a row.

Now she needed to protect and extend that lead. Williams had a break point in the second game of the second set. It was survived. At 3-2, Williams again reached break point on an outrageous fluke, a mis-hit caused by a broken string which dropped in.

This time the break was grabbed by the champion to go 4-2 ahead, at which point Sharapova promptly broke back, and the sequence of the opening set was about to be repeated. To mounting roars, Maria drew level at 4-4 and then broke Serena again. She was confident enough to lob her opponent several times and to hammer one shot directly at Serena's face as she closed in on the net.

The break was landed at the fourth attempt, Sharapova was 5-4 and serving for the match. Would she wilt? Would she heck. There was an ace, only her second, followed by a thunderous service winner. A Williams forehand error took her to match point as Serena swiped the turf with her racket. Another botched forehand and it was over.

Sharapova, at 17 years 75 days, becomes the third youngest Wimbledon women's champion, after Lottie Dod in 1887 and Martina Hingis in 1997. Incredibly, from the first rally, she had never looked as if there would be any other result. That's why the lady is a champ.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
football
Sport
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
News
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine