Serena Williams fighting cold before final against Maria Sharapova

Serena Williams tries to stifle a cough during a practice session Saturday in Melbourne.
(Barbara Walton / EPA)

Serena Williams cut short a practice on the eve of the Australian Open final against Maria Sharapova because of a cold she’s been battling for the last week.

The No. 1-ranked American was shown in footage on Australia’s Channel 7 network coughing into a towel and blowing her nose before she abandoned the practice session on Friday morning.

She later said in a statement released by the WTA: “I had a false start. I wasn’t feeling really well. I’ve been sick with a cold all week, and I got better, then I got worse in the morning.”

She was feeling well enough to return to the practice court in the afternoon. Williams will be aiming for her 19th Grand Slam singles title when she takes on Sharapova on Saturday.


Williams beat 19-year-old Madison Keys 7-6 (5), 6-2 in an all-American semifinal, after Sharapova beat fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets.

Earlier Friday, Novak Djokovic reached a fifth Australian Open final, avenged a long and arduous loss to Stan Wawrinka and ensured he’d renew an old rivalry with Andy Murray.

The top-ranked Djokovic was so absorbed in the moment, he lost track of the score during Friday’s semifinal. His mental lapse after the third set probably cost him the fourth, but the four-time Australian Open champion recovered with three service breaks in the fifth set to beat defending champion Wawrinka, 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.

“Sometimes these things happen, you get carried away by a moment,” Djokovic said, trying to explain his perplexed expression after he’d taken a lead of two sets to one. “I was very confused when I saw the security on the court.

“The circumstances, obviously playing Grand Slam semifinals against the defending champion . . . a lot of emotions going around. Sometimes you can’t keep track of the score.”

In the women’s doubles final, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova won the their first tournament together as a partnership, beating Chan Yung-jan and Zheng Jie, 6-4, 7-6 (5).

Not only had Mattek-Sands and Safarova never played together before the first Grand Slam of the year, they had never even practiced together.

“Actually, we didn’t even really know which side we were going to play,” Mattek-Sands said. “We started off on the opposite sides, (then) we switched. I think we switched again. It was pretty spur of the moment.”


It marked the first time a new pairing had won a Grand Slam title since Nathalie Dechy of France and Russia’s Dinara Safina captured the 2007 U.S. Open title.