Azarenka storms to Australian Open title
Victoria Azarenka crushed Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-0 to claim her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and also secure the world number one ranking.
Azarenka, who will take over from Caroline Wozniacki in the top spot when the new rankings are released on Monday, needed just 82 minutes to dispatch Sharapova, even subjecting the former champion to the ignominy of a bagel second set.
Azarenka, competing in her first Grand Slam final, made an understandably nervy start to the match, with two double faults costing her the first game of the match; Sharapova breaking with ease.
But, after finding her rhythm in the third game, the third seed stormed back to win 12 out of the next 13 games and secure the Daphne Akhurst Trophy.
Despite the early break, which she conceded with a backhand wide down the line, it was near flawless tennis from Azarenka as she stepped up to the baseline and bullied Sharapova off the court.
The Belarusian broke back in the fourth game when she forced Sharapova into consecutive errors, a backhand long down the centre of the court costing the Russian her advantage.
A supremely focused Azarenka then broke again in the eighth game of the first set, a backhand drop shot and backhand volley winner across court doing the damage for the third seed, before serving it out with ease.
Any hope Sharapova had that Azarenka might tighten up was quickly dispelled as the 22-year-old opened the second set in much the same manner she had finished the first, breaking in the opening game when Sharapova hit a backhand drive volley into the net under pressure.
Standing tall on the baseline, Azarenka rushed Sharapova on every shot she played and the Russian again conceded her serve on an error in the third game, this time a backhand wide across court finishing the game.
Even a slight disagreement with umpire Kerrilyn Cramer could not derail Azarenka, the Minsk-born Monaco native simply smiling wryly to herself after she thought a hawkeye challenge should result in her point and not a replay.
But she quickly bounced back, winning the replay and again going on to break in the fifth game - when Sharapova again hit long - before going on to save a break point and serve out the match.
A piece of luck on the net cord threatened to help Sharapova get back into the match with a break point in the sixth game, but she hit a backhand into the net to squander it before again failing with the backhand to hand a disbelieving Azarenka the title at her first attempt, last year's Wimbledon semi-finalist sinking to her knees on the baseline.