until the last minute of the semifinals--appeared to be her opponent in the final. On the other hand, she had beaten Maria Sharapova three times, and each time in straight sets.
But note that I said only a "little" bit of luck, because things can change significantly when you're playing in your first major final, and especially if you're playing against someone as experienced and formidable as Sharapova. And for the first couple of games, Azarenka looked very nervous, double-faulting twice in the opener. She was quickly broken, and Sharapova held for 2-0. That nervous start, however, proved to be only a trifle for the 3rd seed, who then proceeded to break Sharapova at love when she served at 3-1. Azarenka would never look back.
Even this early in the match, Sharapova's forehand was going long. Azarenka began moving Sharapova from side to side. On one point, she pulled her across the court several times this way, then brought her forward with a drop shot and then lobbed over her head. Serving at 3-4, Sharapova presented a microcosm of her current game by alternating double faults with impossibly good serves. But the Russian star experienced the same problem she had when she played Kvitova--she was under so much pressure that she went for too much on her second serves. So this became the pattern: Sharapova either faulted on her second serves, or they were destroyed by a continually forward-moving Azarenka. The Belarusian broke again and took the first set 6-3.
We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.
Sharapova had turned her fortunes around in many matches, most recently, in her thriller of a semifinal against Kvitova. Could she do it again? The problem was, in the semifinal, Sharapova had some help from her opponent. This opponent had no intention of giving away a set. Azarenka must have felt confident from the beginning of the second set. In the first game, Sharapova had an easy overhead to hit, and during the time it took her to raise her racquet and make contact with the ball, her body language gave her away. "She's going to miss it," I thought, and she did. And after she smashed that ball into the net, it was easy for Azarenka to break her.
Do not let your feelings...of momentary irritation and discomfort be seen by others; don't...let every little feeling be read in your face and seen in your manner....
Azarenka continued to dictate play, Sharapova continued to make errors, especially on the forehand side. She was sweating a lot, and one sensed that it wasn't all about the Australian sun, but also about the heat that was coming at her from the other side of the net. Sharapova looked lost as Azarenka won seven consecutive games and went up 4-0.
By this time, Sharapova was even missing winners she had carefully crafted. The once-mighty backhand broke down, and the 2008 champion's service problems continued. But when Azarenka stepped to the baseline to serve at 5-0, it was hard not to have the feeling that Sharapova was going to find a way to make victory difficult for the 3rd seed.Oh, if the queen were a man, she would like to go and give these...Russians such a beating.
Azarenka won the first point on her serve, but then Sharapova cracked a forehand up the line that evened the score. Sharapova continued to elevate her game, especially when she received a second serve from Azarennka. At 30-all, the Russian got a break point when one of her returns dribbled lightly over the netcord. But any hopes she had were dashed when Azarenka quickly got down to the business of closing the match. The 6-3, 6-0 beatdown took and hour and 22 minutes, and when it was over, Azarenka looked more stunned than Sharapova.
Azarenka made only 12 unforced errors to Sharapova's 30, and Sharpova ended the match with a dismal 18% second serve win record.
The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.
Victoria Azarenka did more than win the Australian Open on her first try; she also became the new world number 1. For a long time, it looked as though Azarenka's potential would not be met. She retired frequently from matches, whether suffering from a chronic thigh injury, passing out on the court, sustaining a concussion, or any of a number of other misfortunes. But recently, she has appeared much fitter, both physically and mentally, and when she reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, it appeared she might be on the verge of something big.
The 22-year-old Belarusian is intelligent and assertive, and--in the past--has had some famous moments of on-court bad temper. The Australian crowd made fun of her throughout the tournament because of her screaming. She said she didn't care, and it appears that she really didn't. When she won, the crowd embraced her, as well it should have. Azarenka had played aggressive, almost nerveless tennis, and had run over one of the sport's most strong-willed and successful figures. She had, in every way, ruled the court.