June 19, 2013
Azarenka beats Sharapova to win Miami title
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus defeated an error-plagued Russian Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-4 to win the Sony Ericsson Open for the second time in three years.
Azarenka's victory, her sixth career title, will lift her to sixth in the world rankings next week -- equalling her career best standing.
The 21-year-old was on top from the outset -- breaking Sharapova's first two serves -- although she also lost her own first serve game in a scrappy start to the match.
Sharapova, currently ranked 13th in the world, was seeking her first tournament win since May but never found her rhythm nor her serve which she held just once in the match.
The Russian has now lost all three of the finals she has reached at Key Biscayne.
"It's obviously very disappointing given the other finals here as well but she was definitely the better player today and she has had a great tournament," said Sharapova.
Former world number one Sharapova made 43 unforced errors, gifting points to Azarenka, who showed a good range of shots, including some impressive slices and lobs.
"I think I had the right tactics," said Azarenka, "She likes to swing big and when she has time it's very heavy and coming fast. So I was trying to take time away and not let her do that ... I think she was missing a lot because of my game."
Nonetheless, Sharapova managed to ground out an opportunity for a comeback in the second set when she saved two championship points at 5-3.
Then Sharapova broke Azarenka for the fourth time, when the Belarussian double faulted on break point, to move within a game at 5-4.
Azarenka kept her cool though and produced a superb backhand winner down the line to set up her third championship point and she clinched the title when Sharapova found the net.
"I played really well in the first set but Maria is a great fighter and I had to really hang in there at the end," said a delighted Azarenka, who defeated Serena Williams here in 2009.
As expected, the match was a noisy affair on court with both players shrieking and wailing on every shot.
Sharapova, who missed three weeks of practice due to illness prior to making the quarter-finals at last month's Indian Wells, said she was pleased with her progress despite the setback.
"If you saw me, say ten weeks ago when I came back from Paris after pulling out, I was in no shape or form to even play a tournament," said Sharapova. "So it's really amazing that I made it. I'm proud of that."