Victoria Azarenko wins tournament in Beijing

World number one seed Victoria Azarenko again confirms her high status, confidently beating Russian Maria Sharapova in China Open finals — 6:3, 6:1
By Igor Grishin

The match between Belarusian Victoria Azarenko and Maria Sharapova of Russia may go down in the annals of world tennis, as did those of Chris Evert and Martina Navrбtilovб many years ago. Of course, today’s athletes still have some way to go before they achieve 80 personal meetings but Victoria and Maria are already on the right path — as proven by their entrance to the finals of one of the largest WTA tournaments. $4,828,000 of prize money was at stake in Beijing, which saw their 11th meeting.

Of the ten previous matches, Victoria has won six but both sportswomen were clearly on form at the Beijing tournament, and have been playing well all season. Their form this year has been phenomenal, with Azarenko celebrating 61 victories and 8 defeats before last Sunday match (to Sharapova’s 56 and 9 respectively). Their number of titles is very similar, with Victoria boasting four major prizes (Sydney, Melbourne, Doha and Indian Wells); Maria has three (Stuttgart, Rome and Paris). Before the finals, they had conceded not a single set to their opponents, losing only in the 41st match (Azarenko — 21 and Sharapova — 20).

Curiously, since 2009, neither has won more than one title in the Premier Mandatory series during any given season (competitions with a prize fund of over $4m). In Beijing, Azarenko broke this run, having also won the tournament in Indian Wells. Her manner seemed easy, while Maria’s tennis was a little strained throughout. She made 39 unforced errors, while Azarenko had just 14. Sharapova will undoubtedly seek retribution in future.

The second set was a true battle, with the seventh point of the final game lasting over seven minutes. However, Victoria proved stronger in spirit and more skilful. Since last Monday, the world number one has celebrated her 33rd week topping the WTA ratings. This places her 11th in the history of tennis in terms of time spent as number one seed.
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