MIAMI, FL, USA - Serena Williams cooled off a red hot Maria Sharapova in the final of the Sony Open Tennis on Saturday afternoon, seemingly with her back against the wall at a set and a break down but then rattling off 10 games in a row to conquer the prestigious tournament for a record sixth time.
Williams started the match with an emphatic hold, firing winners from her three biggest weapons - a forehand winner on the first point, a backhand winner on the second point, and an ace to close the game out - but it didn't take too long for her opponent to make her own agenda known in the match.
Sharapova held in the next game and pushed Williams to a multiple deuce game in her next serve game, her returns hard and her movement sharp - and that's how she continued to play for the next hour, eventually taking the first set, 6-4, and breaking the Williams serve to lead the second set, 3-2.
The match turned on a dime from there, though - with Sharapova serving 3-2, Williams blasted a backhand winner, a forehand winner and a big backhand return to build triple break point, and then she sealed the deal at love to even the second set, 3-3. It would be the start of the World No.1's latest comeback, as her serve started hitting the corners and her groundies got deeper and deeper.
Williams wouldn't lose another game the rest of the way to complete a 46 63 60 win over Sharapova.
The numbers from the match were telling - Williams had 14 winners to 18 unforced errors in the first set but finished the match with 34 winners to 29 unforced errors - a very positive 20 to 11 across the second and third sets, most of those errors coming in the first five games of the second set.
And that goes with the trend, too: Williams leads all active players for winning percentage when losing the first set, now 45.5% (70-84); Sharapova is next (38.5%) followed by Venus Williams (34.7%).
The victory didn't just give Williams her 48th WTA title, it also made her the standalone leader for career titles at the Sony Open Tennis, this being her sixth - she also won it in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008 (Steffi Graf won the tournament five times, in 1987, 1988, 1994, 1995 and 1996).
"It's obviously been a really nice month," Sharapova said at the trophy ceremony. "It's disappointing to end it like this but Serena played a great match, and I'm sure we'll play a few more times this year."
"Maria definitely pushed me - she did a really great job today," Williams said. "Like she said, I look forward to our next matches - it's going to be really fun for the fans and for us and for everyone."
And though she barely missed in the second half of the match, Williams did fumble the second half of her acceptance speech. "It's so good to be No.6 now," she said. "I mean... the sixth time. Oh gosh."