Sharapova defeated by Azarenka

Beijing—World number one Victor Azarenka thrashed second seed Maria Sharapova of Russia in straight sets to win the $4.8 million China Open.

The Belarusian dispatched Sharapova, ranked number two in the world, 6-3, 6-1, in the final of the Beijing tournament — the last Premier Mandatory event of the women’s calendar.

Azarenka collected the winner’s prize of $848,000 and became the first player ever to win two Premier Mandatory tournaments in one year.

Azarenka, 23, sped to a 4-0 lead in the first set against the French Open champion, breaking her opponent’s serve twice and holding her own on both occasions.

Sharapova, 25, won her first game in the fifth, before Australian Open champion Azarenka continued her 100 percent service game in the sixth.

The Russian responded by upping her serving and return shots, winning two games in a row, but it was too little too late as Azarenka broke Sharapova in the final game to win the set 6-3 in 43 minutes.

Azarenka continued her momentum into the second set, again winning the first four games with ease.

The tennis star from Belarus then came from behind to hold her serve in a lengthy fifth game to make it 5-0 before Sharapova scraped a game, following an 18-shot rally.

With Azarenka serving for the match Sharapova had two break points at advantage but the Russian was unable to convert.

Azarenka then squandered a match point before finally taking the game and set to record a big win.

It was Azarenka’s first China Open title in four attempts and her fifth tournament triumph of the season.

“I’m really happy to have a good result because I’ve been coming here the last four years,” Azarenka said, praising the “incredible atmosphere” inside the capital’s National Tennis Stadium.

“I think I started the match really well, and I felt like I was doing the right things to make sure that I didn’t let Maria play her game as she likes always to be in control and dominate,” Azarenka added.

“Of course it wasn’t possible for me to do that every single point, but for the most part I was trying to keep up with her rhythm, and when I had the chance, just to try to step it up, be in control myself to take that opportunity to move forward.”

Sharapova was full of praise for her opponent.

“Victoria played an amazing match today,” she said. “She did many things better than I did. “There’s a reason she is number one in the world right now.

“I felt like when I had the chance, I was just making errors in situations where I had opportunities to get back in the set or the match,” she added.

“I would miss second serves, which against somebody who is number one in the world you can’t really do.”

Both finalists had made it to the last two without dropping a set and Azarenka is now 7-4 to the good against Sharapova in head-to-heads.

It was the sixth time the two had met in the final of a tournament and the fourth time this year. Azarenka has now won five and lost only one of their title deciders.

The China Open is one of four compulsory events, ranking behind only the Grand Slams and end-of-season WTA Championships in prestige.

Azarenka won the Indian Wells, a compulsory event, in March. Sharapova, a four-time Grand Slam winner, is yet to win a Premier Mandatory tournament.

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus kisses her trophy after winning the women’s singles final against Maria Sharapova of Russia at the China Open tennis tournament. Azarenka won 6-3, 6-1.—AP

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