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Azarenka rises to new heights

It is only 10 months since Victoria Azarenka, the new Australian Open champion and world No 1, spoke to her family about quitting tennis and going to university instead. She was talked out of this by her grandmother, a former kindergarten teacher whom Azarenka described yesterday as "the biggest inspiration in my life".

"I guess I made a pretty smart decision not walking out," added Azarenka, who hit her low point when she lost to Daniela Hantuchova in the first round at Doha. "I am just so glad I went through everything that happened to me in my career. It was up and down, up and down. But this moment is so special."

Yesterday's runner-up Maria Sharapova has reason to lament the moment that Azarenka saw the light, because this match was an unmitigated rout. For the second time in three Grand Slam tournaments, Sharapova has fought her way through to the final only to be wiped off the court by one of the new generation of power-players. Much of the pre-publicity had been about grunting -- the one field in which Sharapova led the way yesterday, reaching a top level of 94.3 decibels. But when it came to the more fundamental question of who could direct a tennis ball more consistently, Azarenka was streets ahead.

She made only 12 unforced errors, while Sharapova clocked 30, spraying her groundstrokes in all directions.

The first 10 minutes gave a misleading impression, as Azarenka came out a little nervously, serving double-faults and mishitting her groundstrokes. As soon as she had settled, however, she had the rhythm in both her movement and her stroke-making that Sharapova lacked.

From 0-2 in the first set, she reeled off 12 of the next 13 games to take the match 6-3 6-0. Azarenka's win extended the sequence of unpredictable Grand Slam winners, as there have now been five different champions in as many tournaments since Kim Clijsters won here last year.


Sunday Indo Sport