JOHN PYE Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia -
Don't ever tell Serena Williams she can't do something. Her response will be devastating for her opponents. Just ask top-ranked Maria Sharapova.
Sharp and intensely focused from the start, Williams simply overwhelmed Sharapova 6-1, 6-2 Saturday to win the Australian Open and her eighth Grand Slam title.
"It was an awesome win, because I had so many critics. So many people ... saying negative things," Williams said. "Saying I wasn't fit, when I felt that I was really fit, and I could last three sets.
"It's always like, tell me no and I'll show you that I can do it. I get the greatest satisfaction just holding up the Grand Slam trophy and proving everyone wrong."
Williams was eager for the French Open to start, even though it's four months away.
"I'm ready to start training on the clay already," she said. "I saw some things here I want to work on. I'm ready to do that now, ready to take my game to a new level."
Only the second unseeded woman to win the Australian title in the Open era, Williams came into the tournament ranked No. 81 after playing in only four tournaments last year due to a bad knee. She will jump to No. 14 when the new rankings come out next week.
It was the 25-year-old American's first title in 15 tournaments since winning the 2005 Australian Open, and the most dominating win in a completed championship match at Melbourne Park since Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-0, 6-2 in 1994.
"She came out today and she really played flawless tennis," said a downcast Sharapova, the reigning U.S. Open champion who had a 13-match Grand Slam winning streak snapped. "It was my mom's birthday today and I couldn't win for her."
Williams put together the third consecutive singles rout in Rod Laver Arena, after top-ranked Roger Federer pounded Andy Roddick and No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez was nearly flawless in beating Tommy Haas in the semifinals. They will play for the men's title Sunday.
"I was really inspired," Williams said of the performances by Federer and Gonzalez. "I thought if they could do it, so could I."
With occasional showers and a strong wind outside, the roof was closed on packed Rod Laver Arena. Williams saw it as an omen: She won her other two titles here, in 2003 and 2005, with the roof closed.
Williams, who had started slow in her earlier matches, was clearly into it from the start this time. She was pouncing on Sharapova's second serves, standing inside the baseline to send them back faster than they came over.
"She started doing that from the beginning of the match," said Sharapova, who won only a quarter of her second serves. "She was aggressive from all her shots. She was going for it, making most of it."
As the match wore on, Sharapova's shoulders drooped when she missed a first serve, clearly dreading another zinging return, then staring back in frustration when it left her flat-footed. After one, she muttered: "Yeah, too good."
Sharapova sets the pace against most opponents, but Williams' power cut the rallies short and had the crowd gasping. The American had nine winners in the first four games alone, a stretch in which she won 12 straight points after Sharapova held a game point while serving at 0-1.
Sharapova finally got on the board, holding serve while trailing 0-5. During the game, Williams glared at the 19-year-old Russian and had several word for her after getting hit by an overhead.
At the changeover following the 26-minute first set, Sharapova leaned over in her chair, talking to herself as she rocked back and forth, but she didn't get any better.
After taking the match in just 1 hour and 3 minutes, Williams tossed her racket in the air and dropped on her back. Then she hopped around on the court in jubilation before slapping hands with her mother, Oracene, and some of the fans in the first row of seats, and dancing a little jig.
"I'd like to thank my mom. I was a bad student this fortnight," Williams said. "I yelled at her, said some things under my breath. But she just kept coming. I really appreciate it.
"My plan was just to play my game. I finally played it for the first time this whole tournament. When I'm playing well, it's difficult for anyone to beat me. Tennis is what I think I was born to do."
Williams dedicated the title to her half-sister, Yetunde Price, who was shot to death in 2003.
"I just love her so much," she said, her voice cracking. "I'll try not to get teary-eyed but I said a couple of days ago, if I win this it's going to be for her. So thanks Tunde."
"Every match I wrote notes. Usually I write, `Look at the ball,' `Move forward,' `Do this, do that.' Today my note was just `Yetunde.' Every changeover I looked at it."
Chris O'Neill, who was ranked No. 111 when she won the 1978 title, was the only other unseeded woman to win an Australian Open.
Sharapova, who will assume the No. 1 ranking from Justine Henin, suffered her worst loss in a Grand Slam tournament.
"I don't like losing," she said. "You go back in the locker room, like, `Darn it, I just lost. Someone is celebrating over there. They're going to be opening a bottle of champagne."