Glory for Azarenka in Australia

 

Victoria Azarenka tonight claimed her maiden grand slam title at the Australian Open to leap to the top of the world rankings.

Azarenka was too strong for Maria Sharapova in Melbourne, thrashing the 2008 champion 6-3 6-0 in just one hour and 22 minutes.

In addition to winning the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, the victory also meant the Belarusian will become the new world number one on Monday, replacing Caroline Wozniacki.

The manner of her victory, and the impressive way she controlled her emotions towards the end, suggests she may be there for some time.

With so much up for grabs, it was perhaps understandable that the opening exchanges were error-strewn.

Azarenka's nerves were certainty evident early on. She was able to save one break point in the opening game but then pushed a backhand wide on the second as Sharapova made the first move.

When she slipped 0-2 0-30 down, her camp must have been fearing the worst but she dragged it back to 40-30 and then got on the scoreboard with a blistering forehand down the line.

The confidence suddenly returned to the Belarusian and she broke back to love to level it at 2-2 and followed that with a routine hold to edge ahead.

While Sharapova was happy to simply trade groundstrokes from the baseline, Azarenka was displaying more variety.

Having held for 4-3 with a clever drop shot-lob combination she then broke with some adventurous net play.

A drive volley gave her a second break point and she took it with another drop shot which Sharapova could only scrape up and her opponent was on hand to volley into the open court.

She had no problems in serving it out and remained on the front foot at the start of the second set, breaking with a stunning forehand winner after Sharapova had hit a drive-volley straight to her on the baseline.

The Russian was being outgunned and although she did create an immediate break back opportunity, Azarenka slammed the door to move 2-0 ahead.

It then became 3-0 as Sharapova, who was starting to look dispirited, thrashed another wayward backhand into the tramlines.

Azarenka was relentless and Sharapova powerless to prevent her from running away with it.

The 22-year-old broke again for 5-0 and, despite Sharapova's best efforts to extend the match, she completed a quite stunning victory in one hour and 22 minutes.

PA

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