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Azarenka Basks in Australian Open Victory

The 2012 Australian Open marks a bevy of milestones for Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian reached her first final at a major. Moreover, by defeating Maria Sharapova 6-3,6-0, Azarenka claims her maiden major and will ascend to the number one spot for the first time.

Although they were tied at three a piece in their head to head, Azarenka had prevailed over Sharapova in the two previous finals they played. Still, this was a major and with three such trophies under her mantle, Sharapova had a colossal edge in experience.

Azarenka had her “Oh my God! I can‘t believe I‘m here” moment common with first time finalist which often signals disaster. Sharapova took advantage by breaking and consolidating for a 2-0 lead in the opening set. Yet, Azarenka refocused quickly to get back in the match.

After pulling out of a love-30 hole to get on the board, Azarenka broke at love to square the set at 2 all. Later ahead 4-3, Azarenka seized a second break and went on to close out the set.

From that point on, the 22 year old gave her Russian opponent no breathing space. By forcing Sharapova into errors, Azarenka raced to a 3-0 in the second set. By winning nine successive games, Azarenka captured the second set 6-0 and sealed the championship.

Sharapova admitted that she was simply outplayed “she did everything better than I did today. . .taking the first ball, hitting it deep and aggressive”. Sharapova acknowledged that she was disappointed, yet “ to get to the final is a good achievement. . .to end up the one [who] loses is tough. . .[But] it’s a good start to the year and I have a lot to look forward to”.

This was the second time that Sharapova was frustrated by a first time finalist. Petra Kvitova stopped her at Wimbledon last season.

An incredulous Azarenka stated “right after the win I couldn’t understand what was happening. . . I could not believe that the tournament was over”. Azarenka was particularly proud of her fight after the first two games “I really handled the situation well after that little slack in the beginning. . .and just [took] it one [point] at a time”.

As an adolescent, Azarenka‘s talent was evident with the big groundstrokes. But, in the past, her volatile temperament got in the way. Recently, Azarenka’s biggest growth has been on the mental side, controlling her emotions and developing a sense of self belief. For that, Azarenka credits her coach “he has [guided] me towards that winning attitude”.

Come Monday, there is a new pecking order on the women’s circuit with Azarenka at the top, Kvitova second, Sharapova third and Caroline Wozniacki dropping from first to fourth.

Nathalie Narcisse

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