28
Jan
12

Victoria Azarenka outclassed Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final to win her maiden Grand Slam title and become the new world number one.

The 22-year-old Belarusian marked her first major final with a nerveless display, coming through 6-3 6-0 in an hour and 22 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Three-time major champion Sharapova could not live with her opponent’s pace, variety or unrelenting intensity. The win sees Azarenka replace Caroline Wozniacki at the top of the rankings. It was the first time since the 2009 Australian Open that the number one spot has been decided by the outcome of a Grand Slam final. And Azarenka was a worthy winner following a brilliant performance in which she made only 12 unforced errors to Sharapova’s 30. She joins an illustrious list of names on the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, and on this evidence more major titles await her. Azarenka reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year but that was the only other time she had been past the last eight of a major. She was far from convincing in the early stages, a couple of errors helping fourth seed Sharapova into a 2-0 lead. However, the Russian soon began to falter and a long backhand let Azarenka strike back to love in game four. The turning point seemed to be Azarenka’s perfectly-timed lob to hold in game seven, which she followed up with a backhand volley to break for 5-3. The first set was served out to 15 in 46 minutes and a superb passing shot gave Azarenka the early initiative in the second set. Sharapova squandered an chance to respond immediately and she was made to pay as a ruthless Azarenka took total control. Two more breaks all but ended the contest, and Azarenka survived a late scare to prevail on her first championship point.

 

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