Maria Sharapova won the US Open on Saturday
defeating Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-4, 6-4 with a riveting
display of power-hitting.
It was the 19-year-old Russian's second Grand
Slam title to go with her 2004 Wimbledon win.
In a tense and tightly-fought contest before a
capacity 23,000 crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Sharapova's
greater weight of shot and power-serving proved too much for the
speed and counter-attacking skills of the Belgian.
After Henin-Hardenne netted on match point,
Sharapova sunk to her knees and held her head in her hands
before running off court to embrace father and coach Yuri.
"I figured I lost the last four times against
Justine so I thought I would just flip everything 360 degrees
and do the total opposite," she said.
"I am so happy it's here in New York - my
Henin-Hardenne, who made it to all four Grand
Slam finals in 2006, said Sharapova had fully deserved her win.
"She served much better than in our last
meetings and I gave her too much time - played too short and at
this level that's not good enough," she said.
"I just tried to keep fighting on every point,
but she played a lot down the lines and it was tough for me."
Henin-Hardenne staved off two break points in
the opening game against the big-hitting Russian who defeated
top seed Amelie Mauresmo of France in three sets in the
Clad in her all-black Audrey Hepburn-inspired
"night" outfit, Sharapova then served up two double faults on
her own serve and Henin-Hardenne made her pay breaking with a
cracking forehand from mid-court for a 2-0 lead.
The third seed hit back immediately, a deft
half-volley drop-shot at the net setting up break point which
she grabbed with a big forehand drive.
She levelled for 2-2, and games went with serve
after that until 4-4 when Henin-Hardenne opened the door to
Sharapova with two sloppy backhands into the net.
The Russian then provoked a forehand error that
brought up two break points, the second of which she converted
with a thumping cross-court forehand of her own that
Henin-Hardenne could not return.
Sharapova's forehand again did the damage in the
next game setting up set point with a drive down the line and
she clinched it with a service winner.
That was the same score as in the Australian
Open semi-final in January, a match in which Henin-Hardenne hit
back to win.
Sharapova flung in another two double faults at
0-1 down at the start of the second set, but she still managed
Henin-Hardenne won the longest rally of the
final to level at deuce and 3-2 up but Sharapova got her way out
of trouble with two big serves.
The following game was crucial as Henin-Hardenne
wavered again and two forehands, one long and one into the net,
gave the Russian the break she was looking for.
She served out twice for the title.
Sharapova will be up to third in the world
rankings after her New York triumph and she warned that there
was more to come from her.
"It's the carrot on the cake but there are a lot
more carrots I want to put on the cake," she said.
"I still have years to go and I can still
Henin-Hardenne had the satisfaction of being
only the seventh woman to contest all four Grand Slam finals in
the same year.
She also lost to Amelie Mauresmo in the
Australian Open and Wimbledon finals and won the French Open
final for her fifth Grand Slam win against Svetlana Kuznetsova
"It's been a great season for me and it's not
over yet," she said.
"I am still healthy and my goal now is the tour
championships. At the end of the year I will see what my plans
are for next year." ESPN