Victoria Azarenka placed her name among the elites at the Sony Ericsson Open. Azarenka beat Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-4 to claim her second title at this tournament becoming the eighth woman to have won the title a minimum of two times.
Participating in Miami for the first time since 2007, Sharapova cruised to the quarterfinals. However, the Russian fought off Alexandra Dulgheru and Andrea Petkovic to reach her third final in Miami.
After difficult three setters to advance to the quarterfinals, Azarenka dominated defending champion and world number two Kim Clijsters and coasted to victory in the semifinals versus world number three Vera Zvonareva.
Azarenka was in the zone early on. In the initial game, after Sharapova had double game point, Azarenka connected on a forehand up the winner for break point. Despite Sharapova surviving that one, on her third break point chance, Azarenka converted.
With a few miscues by Azarenka, Sharapova broke back quickly to level the set at 1 all. Still, as a result of two consecutive double faults, Sharapova went down 0-30. Later, when Sharapova sent a forehand wide, Azarenka had the break for 2-0.
With Sharapova spraying forehands and backhands all over the place and ineffective on the return of serve, Azarenka rolled five consecutive games which included two additional breaks to take the first set.
In the second set, with a double fault on break point by Sharapova, Azarenka had a 2-0 lead. After consolidating, Azarenka put on the pressure to get to deuce after Sharapova was at 40-love.
With a one handed backhand winner off the return, Azarenka had her third break point of the fourth game and converted with a net court winner for 4-0. Consequently, Azarenka was up a double break and had nine successive games.
But, Sharapova ever the fighter did not make it easy for the Belarusian. By forcing a few mistakes from Azarenka who had committed only a handful previously, Sharapova broke for 1-4.
Sharapova chipped away, narrowing the deficit to 3-4. However, by pushing a forehand long, Sharapova faced break point. When the Russian double faulted the very next point, Azarenka arrived at 5-3.
With Azarenka serving for the match, Sharapova dismissed two match points and was gifted the break on a double fault. Yet, the issue was Sharapova’s own serve.
Sharapova had held serve only once thus far. With a backhand down the line winner, Azarenka arrived at break point which was also her third match point. With Sharapova netting another forehand, Azarenka had the championship and her sixth tour victory.
Down 0-4 in the second set, Sharapova tried to make a match of it but stated “it’s a little bit too late to pick up the pace. . Against a player like her you have to have that level from the beginning or she’s going to go with it and only get better. She’ll gain more confidence. She did many things better today. She was the aggressive one; she returned better”.
Considering where she was ten weeks ago with the flu, having to pull out of Paris and unable to practice, Sharapova expressed that she was satisfied with the last four weeks “I was in no shape or form to even play a tournament. . . So it’s really amazing that I even achieved this. I came into Indian Wells without a lot of expectations”.
With her finalist status, Sharapova on Monday will be ranked at number nine. Along with Sharapova, Jennifer Capriati is the sole player to have failed to win in Miami her first three times.
Azarenka was very satisfied with her play today “I think I had the right tactics. She likes to swing big and when she has time, it’s very heavy and comes back fast. So I was trying to take time away [from her]. . . But in the end she really stepped it up. I don’t think I did anything wrong, she was just going for her shots, catching few lines and playing really well. So I just had to really hang in there and keep playing my game”.
In the past, Azarenka had outbursts on court when things went south. Today, the Belarusian was very composed even after Sharapova was at 3-4.
Azarenka explained “I went home, spent three days by myself and just realized a few things what I want to do with my life, how to really find that balance. I guess it takes time and sometimes loneliness to realize what you have to do with your life”.
At that time, Azarenka had an epiphany that she would “do the best I can. . . fight for every ball. . . [but] the outcome is not up to me. So I just came to practice and I tried every day to be happy, to enjoy myself on the court”.
It seems a matter of time before this 21 year old hoists a majors’ trophy. Thus, MiamiTennisNews.com asked if she had a preference.
Azarenka replied “ No. It’s the same points. Maybe a little bit of difference in the prize money, but any title is good”. She agreed though that her game is better suited to hardcourt, still “you have to adjust and be smart with how you prepare to play on clay or grass. I’ve had good [results] on grass. . .so we’ll see”.
With this victory, Azarenka will match her career best ranking of number six.