Australian Open: Williams powers past Sharapova for 19th grand slam title

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(CNN) — She may have been ill but that didn’t stop Serena Williams from claiming a 19th grand slam title Saturday.

The world No. 1 beat second-ranked Maria Sharapova 6-3 7-6 (5) in an absorbing Australian Open final to move into sole possession of second place in grand slams won in the Open Era behind Steffi Graf’s 22.

Despite suffering from a fever and cough this week, Williams set the tone by breaking in the first game. She took control of the first set by winning six straight points following a 12-minute rain delay — organizers then opted to use the roof at Rod Laver Arena — for a 5-2 lead.

The second set was punctuated with shouts of “come on” from both players but it was ultimately Williams who had reason to celebrate the most.

A gutsy Sharapova saved a match point trailing 5-4 and another at 4-6 in the tiebreak — each time with forehands down the line — but when Williams finally had match point on her serve, she delivered her 18th ace.

Sharapova — who was bidding for a sixth major but first outside Roland Garros in seven years — lost her 16th straight match against the American.

Williams, too, maintained her record of never losing past the quarterfinals in Melbourne, improving to 12-0.

In Sunday’s men’s final, top-seed Novak Djokovic faces sixth-seed Andy Murray. Like Williams, four-time winner Djokovic has never been beaten at Melbourne Park in a semifinal or final.