On the Baseline Tennis News
April 4, 2009
MIAMI, Florida—19-year-old Victoria Azarenka is now the pride of Belarus, claiming her first Sony Ericsson Open title after defeating an injured Serena Williams in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1.
Not only did Azarenka deny Serena the opportunity to claim her 6th victory here in Miami, she took away her chance to break Steffi Graf’s record for the most singles titles at this tournament (5).
“I gave the effort that I could give today. That’s all I could give,” says Serena. She played with a taped left thigh, and was visibly limping towards the middle of the 2nd set.
When asked about her injury, Serena would only say that she has an ankle strain, as well as something else on her thigh that was bothering her in the quarterfinal, and seemed to get worse as the tournament progressed.
The brutal heat and humidity also produced difficult playing conditions. Richard Williams was seen wiping sweat from his face as he watched his daughter struggle through the match.
Despite the exchange of grunts from both sides of the court, it was clear that Serena wasn’t able to get to the ball fast enough, which she later admitted. “It was a little difficult moving to the left and a little bit to the right. A little forward was also difficult,” she said with a laugh.
After hitting the winning point, Azarenka was bursting with excitement as she dropped her racquet and ran over to hug her coach, Antonio Van Grichen, and her fitness coach, Mark Willington.
“It was the biggest win of my career so far,” says Azarenka. “I was just so happy to finish the match, because I was getting a little bit nervous at the end.”
Her nerves were visible when she double faulted at match point, just when she realized that she could actually win the title. But her consistency and aggressive playing style prevented her from becoming overwhelmed by her impending win over the No. 1 player in the world.
As for Serena’s future, she says that she plans to take a few weeks off to recuperate.
Victoria Azarenka, now ranked No. 8, is the 2nd player from Belarus to be ranked in the top 10, next to Natasha Zvereva, who was ranked No. 5 in 1989, and retired in 2002.