Victoria Azarenka thrashed Russian Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-0 in a final that was just as lopsided as the score indicated, maybe even more so. Here are five thoughts I had after watching the final.
1. How good was Victoria Azarenka? She steamrolled past her first 5 opponents, and I think her best win in the Aussie Open this year was against defending champion Kim Clijsters in a hard-fought, 3-set win that stretched both players to their limits. I was really impressed after that match, I didn’t give Vika a chance to win that match against the more experienced and defending champion. Her forehand and backhand both really shocked me.
2. Maria Sharapova has nothing to worry about. Just as Nadal, she played superbly throughout the tournament, however in the final she completely flopped. Whatever it was, maybe Victoria Azarenka got in her head, or she was just having an off day, it was clear that Maria was not at her best. However, there are a lot of positives as she made it back to a final in a Grand Slam, yet another positive step on the road back to a full recovery from shoulder surgery. For the second time in her last two chances though (Wimbledon 2011, when she was crushed by Petra Kvitova), she’s failed to capitalize against an opponent she should have beaten. On the other hand, Azarenka was superior in every single way on Saturday.
3. I was amazed by the accuracy of Victoria Azarenka’s shots on Saturday. Not unlike Djokovic and Nadal the next day, Vika’s accuracy and strength on her groundstrokes reflected her performance. In other words, a winner. The hard backhand at Sharapova was working very well, and the forehand was the same way. The thing that was most surprising, in a good way, was how few errors she made. Throughout the entire match, Vika made only 12 errors, a good chunk of them coming in the first few games of the match, when she went down 0-2. In comparison, Sharapova made 30. Everyone always says how the key for Sharapova is her service and unforced errors. If either or both of them are high, then usually she ends up losing. That’s exactly what happened in the final.
4. I was following most of the match via live chat on ESPN.com, alongside watching the live match. I found it really interesting however, because when the match started, most people were mixed, then when Sharapova broke early in the first set, to go up 2-0, I saw a lot of “Go Maria!” comments, and then the rest of the match consisted of mostly “Go Vika!” comments and people hoping that Sharapova could just make the match longer for a sake of competition, and also due to the fact that people in the USA had to wake up at 2 AM to watch. The women’s tennis fans have no one to really root for yet. They’re stuck between Sharapova, Serena Williams, and a plethora of other players. Vika might be the lasting number one player, something that the WTA would surely welcome and embrace.
5. The fans have no one to root for really, but when will there be a true number one? Caroline Wozniacki certainly wasn’t it, and now slips to a more appropriate #4 in the world. Is Victoria Azarenka the new face of women’s tennis? We can’t count out Maria Sharapova, either. After all, incredibly, she’s still only 24 (she’s been playing for almost a decade now professionally. That just gives you a sense of how young she was when she turned professional). Will some of the veterans like Kim Clijsters or Serena Williams regain the top spot? Or maybe another young player like Petra Kvitova will become the bona fide #1 player in the world. That remains to be seen.
Thanks for reading the second post of the Australian Open review. Stay tuned for many more posts over a little over the next week!