Saturday, January 28, 2012

Azarenka rules at Australian Open

Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.
Queen Victoria

Victoria Azarenka went into the 2012 Australian Open final with a little bit of luck. She had never beaten Petra Kvitova, who--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.
Queen Victoria

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.... 
Queen Victoria

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.
Queen Victoria

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.
Queen Victoria

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.


Karen said...

Diane it was great for me personally to see Vika handle the situation in the way she did. She was a true professional and the way she conducted herself to win that match shows that she has really improved in all aspects of her game.

A couple of corrections, Vika made the semis of Wimbledon which was the first time she had made the semis of a Major and she broke Sharapova at love with the score at 2-1

Diane said...

Oops...I thought I said Wimbledon. I'll fix that right away. I was thinking Wimbledon--what happens when you stay up all night :)

Anonymous said...

It was nice to see Vika play with all confidence in the world.

skivvy said...

I'm glad you caught this one Diane -- I was sad I couldn't enjoy your women's doubles final write-up because of the time difference.

Hooray for Vika, and neat literary write-up with the Queen Victoria quotes.

svente said...

Due to my own bad timings, I couldn't watch this match until the second replay at 10p. Happily I was able to avoid finding out who won and frankly had I seen the scoreline without the names I would have assumed a Sharapova win. I like both players and wish Sharapova had had a better day but I'm psyched with the Azarenka win. I've liked her for years and love the more mature confident Vika.2. Heh... It was a fun match, I'm glad I got to actually see it! And finally! The ”#1 without a major win” chatter will cease for the time being!

Thanks to you Diane for the coverage. I don't comment all the time but I visit this blog regularly and always enjoy myself. Let's all get back to our regular sleep patterns!

Diane said...

skivvy and svente--thanks so much for your comments.

Almost all of the ATP matches I really wanted to watch occurred in the middle of the night where I live. I always miss a lot of the Australian Open, and then I'm exhausted from staying up all night to watch the big WTA matches.

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Well she is great player of tennis and she is in top plays of world and she defeat Maria Sharapova in Australian open final.