Serena Williams planned to celebrate her 19th grand slam title by heading to bed after defying illness and a battling performance from Maria Sharapova to win the Australian Open on Saturday.
Williams fired 15 aces in the second set to extend her winning streak against Sharapova to 16 matches with a hard-fought 6-3 7-6 (7/5) victory in an hour and 51 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
The 33-year-old revealed she had been sick off court during a rain delay in the opening set but recovered to move closer to the open-era record of 22 grand slam titles held by Steffi Graf.
Williams had been tied with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 after winning the US Open last year and Navratilova was on hand to present the trophy after Williams claimed her sixth Australian Open title and first since 2010.
Sharapova, whose last win against Williams came in November 2004, got off to the worst possible start by serving a double fault to lose her serve in the opening game.
Williams led 3-2 and was serving at 30-30 when rain forced the retractable roof to be fully closed, leading to a 12-minute delay.
Sharapova remained in her chair but Williams left the court and later revealed on Channel 7: “I had a really bad cough and ended up throwing up actually. I think that helped when I got everything out of me and cleared my chest out because I couldn’t breathe a little bit.
“I’ve had a really bad cold and cough. Usually when that happens you stay in bed for a week, you don’t play matches every other day and practice every other day. Now I have a couple of days to take a deep breath and lay down.
“I’m going to go to bed and curl up under some covers and go to sleep. That sounds excellent right now.”
Speaking during the trophy presentation, Williams said: “Growing up I wasn’t the richest but I had a rich family in spirit and support. Standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen. I just can’t believe it, I really can’t.
“I went on the court (in Compton, Los Angeles) with just a ball, a racket and a hope and that’s all I had.”
Sharapova, who saved two match points in the second round against Alexandra Panova, said: “I have to congratulate Serena on creating history and playing some of her best tennis.
“It’s an honour playing against her. I’ve not beaten her in a really long time but I love stepping on the court every time because she has been the best and you always want to play the best.
“I was almost down and out in the second round so feel I gave myself a second life in this tournament. It was not quite enough today but I am proud of my effort.
“It’s always tough getting to a final stage of an event and you become the one that’s going home with the smaller trophy. No matter how you played, well or not, whatever the scoreline is, it’s always tough. But it will be all right.
“Yes, I haven’t won against her many times, but if I’m getting to the stage of competing against someone like Serena, I’m doing something well. I’m setting up a chance to try to beat her and it hasn’t happened. I’m not just going to go home without giving it another chance. That’s just not who I am and not who I was raised to be. I’m a competitor.”