MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 28: Victoria Azarenka of Belarus celebrates winning championship point after winning her women’s final match against Maria Sharapova of Russia during day thirteen of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 28, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE: Victoria Azarenka won her first Grand Slam title and became the new world number one when she thrashed a disappointing Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final on Saturday.
The third-seeded Belarusian overpowered Sharapova to win 6-3, 6-0 in 82 minutes to lift the trophy and become women’s tennis’s fourth first-time Grand Slam winner in a row.
Azarenka came from 0-2 down in the first set to win 12 of the next 13 games for a comprehensive victory as Sharapova’s game disintegrated in the face of all-out aggression from the Belarusian.
Sharapova made 30 unforced errors, while Azarenka played almost flawlessly at times with only 12 errors across the two sets.
Azarenka won the toss and chose to serve, but she started nervously and dished up two double faults on her way to dropping the first game.
Sharapova consolidated to open a 2-0 lead and got to 0-30 on Azarenka’s next game, but the Belarusian seemed to shake off her nerves and began to slowly take control.
She stepped up to the baseline and took the ball early, pressuring Sharapova into mistakes. Soon Azarenka was dominating in all departments, matching the Russian’s power from the baseline and volleying confidently.
The 22-year-old broke back in the fourth game and broke again in the eighth before confidently serving for the first set.
And the third seed started the second set with the same self-belief, breaking Sharapova’s first serve and coming back from 15-40 to hold her own and open a 2-0 lead.
Sharapova was becoming increasingly frustrated and, unusually for the three-time grand slam winner, she began to look to her coach Thomas Hogstedt in frustration.
Azarenka was in full control, however, and she broke Sharapova twice more to go to 5-0 lead.
The Belarusian stepped up to serve for the championship, saving a break point and falling to her knees in delight when a Sharapova backhand crashed into the net.