Halfway through the first set, #1 ranked Maria Sharapova had an easy return. Serena Williams was out of position and, with the ball floating towards her racket, Maria could have hit it anywhere on the court. But she hit it straight at Serena’s body. And it hit her. Hard. Sharapova turned around. Surprise flashed across Serena’s face, replaced quickly by a certain kind of stare. Did the Russian really want to risk making the American angry? Apparently so. Gutsy or obnoxious, Sharapova had done it.
I have to say after so many years of injury, I’d written off Serena. Too many fat checks, apartments in the Meat Packing District, too many clothing lines to manage. It seemed life had moved on.
From her first few matches in the Aussie Open, though, the unseeded and 81 ranked Serena looked different. Gone were the over-the-top outfits, jewelry, and hair. Just a pair of hooped earrings gave a nod to her more indulgent past. This was the stripped down, angry Serena. Watching her matches, she only got more intense, more electric with each one. And in the final, it boiled over — every winning point was greeted with an expression that said “What’s my name?!” It didn’t read like arrogance, it read like confidence. It read like getting back the respect you know you deserve.
When a match is this lopsided, it usually becomes the worst kind of boring. Watching Serena’s show of sheer omnipotence, though, was just the opposite. I couldn’t look away. Seeing her so dominate the Russian (okay, Floridian) in the final, one 120 mph serve at a time, was a beautiful thing. Too good, too strong, too determined. 81 to 1. What a fantastic story.