Azarenka claims maiden slam
Belarusian destroys Sharapova to move top of the rankings
Last Updated: 28/01/12 11:34pm
Victoria Azarenka claimed her first major title by hammering Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-0 in the Australian Open final to leap to the top of the world rankings.
The Belarusian proved too hot for her opponent in Melbourne with a demolition job against the three-time grand slam champion, to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in just one hour and 22 minutes.
Victory also meant the 22-year-old will become the new world number one on Monday, replacing Caroline Wozniacki.
With so much up for grabs, it was perhaps understandable that the opening exchanges were error-strewn.
Azarenka's nerves were certainly evident early on. She was able to save one break point in the opening game but then pushed a backhand wide on the second as Sharapova made the first move.
When she slipped 0-2 0-30 down, her camp must have been fearing the worst but she dragged it back to 40-30 and then got on the scoreboard with a blistering forehand down the line.
The confidence suddenly returned to the Belarusian and she broke back to love to level it at 2-2 and followed that with a routine hold to edge ahead.
While Sharapova was happy to simply trade groundstrokes from the baseline, Azarenka was displaying more variety.
Having held for 4-3 with a clever drop shot-lob combination, she then broke with some adventurous net play.
A drive volley gave her a second break point and she took it with another drop shot which Sharapova could only scrape up and her opponent was on hand to volley into the open court.
She had no problems in serving it out and remained on the front foot at the start of the second set, breaking with a stunning forehand winner after Sharapova had hit a drive-volley straight to her on the baseline.
The Russian was being outgunned and although she did create an immediate break-back opportunity, Azarenka slammed the door to move 2-0 ahead.
It then became 3-0 as Sharapova, who was starting to look dispirited, thrashed another wayward backhand into the tramlines.
Azarenka was relentless and Sharapova powerless to prevent her from running away with it.
The 22-year-old broke again for 5-0 and, despite Sharapova's best efforts to extend the match, she completed a quite stunning victory.