Azarenka Claims First Singles Title in Brisbane
BRISBANE, Australia - Both had shown impressive form to get into the final but on the day only one of them could leave as champion, and it was Victoria Azarenka who finally got that monkey off her back, taking her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title with a 63 61 rout of Marion Bartoli in the final of the Brisbane International.
Finals hadn't been that hard to come by for Azarenka, but titles were. The Belarusian was runner-up in all four of her prior finals, at Estoril and Tashkent in 2007 and Gold Coast and Prague in 2008. But it was a much different player who showed up in Brisbane's championship match, as a No.2-seeded Azarenka completely dominated the No.3-seeded Bartoli, breaking serve a total of six times and winning in 71 minutes.
"The way I was thinking on court was very different from before," Azarenka said. "I was playing every point, no matter what happened. I wasn't thinking about the fact that I was playing in a final. I was thinking it was a regular match, regular points. That helped me today. I don't really believe I've won yet. Everybody says the third time is the charm, but for me it's the fifth - I'm just glad I finally got it!"
"It was a tighter match than the score showed," Bartoli said. "All the games were very tight, going to advantage, deuce, advantage, deuce... there were a lot of break points. It was a great match. She was coming up with some great shots. I wasn't able to move her like I had to. I tried my best but she was just better."
Although she didn't drop a set the entire week, Azarenka wasn't unchallenged at the International event. She barely got past Jarmila Gajdosova in the second round (76(4) 75) and was again pushed to the limits in the quarters by Lucie Safarova (76(5) 64). But she rebounded from those back-to-back struggles with a 63 61 win over Sara Errani in the semis, then repeated the score in the final.
Bartoli came out of a much more heavily packed top half of the draw. The most notable names up there, Ana Ivanovic and Amélie Mauresmo, each saved match points in their respective second round matches, then duked it out for a chance to play Bartoli in the semis. It was No.5 seed Mauresmo who succeeded, dismissing No.1 seed Ivanovic in straight sets; however, she acquired a left thigh injury and was forced to retire during the first set of the all-French semi.
"It's only the first tournament of the year - there are a lot more matches to play," Bartoli added. "I'm just pleased to have been in the final. I want to keep some energy for Melbourne, which is the most important event right now."
Errani was by far the most surprising story of the week. She upset No.4 seed Daniela Hantuchova in the first round and would end up being the only unseeded semifinalist; she had beaten Azarenka in their last meeting in Moscow two months ago, but it was a different Azarenka this time, as she blew past the Italian easily.
Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King won their second straight Tour doubles event together, having won Québec City in the last event of the 2008 season. In the Brisbane doubles final, which followed the singles final on Saturday, they rallied from 63 53 down to beat Polish duo Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska, 36 75 105. Groenefeld now has nine Tour doubles titles while King has seven.
Two of the world's best teams were in the Brisbane doubles draw, but fell early. Undisputed world No.1 team Cara Black and Liezel Huber fell in the second round to Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama, while No.2 seeds and reigning Australian Open champions the Bondarenko sisters were defeated in the same round by Groenefeld and King. Jans and Rosolska would beat Hantuchova and Sugiyama.