Azarenka bags Australian Open women’s crown and no. 1 ranking
MELBOURNE – Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka swept imperiously to her first grand slam title and the world number one ranking Saturday when she demolished Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final.
The 22-year-old, playing her first major title match, made light of the occasion and her illustrious opponent as she hammered the Russian former champion 6-3, 6-0 in just 82 minutes.
Azarenka appeared on court in a yellow hoodie and listening to her MP3 player, and after being broken in the first game she was quickly into the rhythm of a match set to both players’ notoriously loud shrieks.
After going 0-2 down in the first set, she stepped forward to claim 12 of the next 13 games against Sharapova, who was powerless to stop the onslaught despite her three major trophies, including the 2008 Melbourne title.
The third seed, who now succeeds Caroline Wozniacki as the new women’s number one, was equally cool afterwards as she lifted the Daphne Ackhurst Cup and dutifully thanked her grandmother in her acceptance speech without tears.
“I can’t wait to be back next year, I’ve had an amazing month in Australia. It’s a dream true,” said Azarenka.
Her win highlights a shake-up in women’s tennis after Wozniacki’s departure from the number one ranking and a re-shuffling of the top 10, plus defeats for 2011 champion Kim Clijsters and five-time winner Serena Williams.
In the new rankings to be released on Monday, Czech player Petra Kvitova will be second behind Azarenka with Sharapova third and Wozniacki fourth, while China’s Li Na falls to ninth.
“As in any sport you have your good days, you have your tough days and you have days where things just don’t work out. Today Victoria was just too good,” Sharapova said.
“It all comes down to the last two athletes, winner takes it all after all the players in the draw. I’ve had great wins here and I’ve had tough losses but there’s no doubt I’ll be back.”
Earlier there was controversy in the juniors’ competitions as boys’ winner Luke Saville swore in his acceptance speech and girls’ runner-up Yulia Putintseva angrily smashed her racquet before shaking hands.
Australia’s Saville, blamed “raw emotion” for his profane reaction after being presented with the trophy by Ken Rosewall on centre court.
“I’ll probably regret saying that word, but you know, it was just the heat of the moment. It was just raw emotion out there. I said what I thought,” he said. “Lucky it wasn’t the other word.”
Putintseva also let her emotions get the better of her when she angrily bashed her racquet on the floor before congratulating America’s Taylor Townsend.
The 17-year-old is mentored by Patrick Mouratoglou, former tutor of Marcos Baghdatis who infamously mangled four racquets in quick succession during his second-round loss to Stanislas Wawrinka.