Sun, Jan 11, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Azarenka tops Bartoli for her first title

AFP , BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

Radek Stepanek reacts during his Brisbane International match against Richard Gasquet in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Victoria Azarenka claimed her first title on the WTA tour when she downed France’s Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-1 in the final of the Brisbane International yesterday.

The 19-year-old from Belarus was too powerful for Bartoli, with the depth of her ground strokes forcing the Frenchwoman into a host of errors.

Azarenka’s power and consistency also put Bartoli’s usually reliable serve under enormous pressure and the strain began to show as the match progressed.

Bartoli, 24, served six double faults while making only 63 percent of her first serves, winning just 45 percent of them.

Azarenka didn’t serve a double fault for the entire match and was successful with 71 percent of her first serves.

The Belarusian broke Bartoli three times in each set in a dominant display and while Bartoli had her chances to break back, she was only able to do so on two occasions.

Despite not having won previously on the tour, Azarenka showed no signs of nerves against her older opponent.

She wrapped up the first set in 41 minutes then raced to a 4-0 lead in the second.

Bartoli broke back to make it 4-1, but Azarenka broke back immediately and calmly served out the match.

In men’s play, Spain’s Fernando Verdasco was set to meet Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the final after contrasting victories over French opponents yesterday.

Verdasco crushed Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-1 in 75 minutes in the first semi-final before Stepanek outlasted Richard Gasquet 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours 12 minutes in the second.

HONG KONG CHALLENGE

AFP, HONG KONG

Venus Williams thrashed Vera Zvonareva in straight sets to seal victory for the Americas over top seeds Russia in the Hong Kong World Team Challenge yesterday.

Williams dominated from the start of the match, winning 6-2, 6-2 to give her team an unassailable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five gold group final.

It followed a hard-fought 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win for Gisela Dulko over Anna Chakvetadze after the Americas and Russia were tied at 1-1 overnight.

Wimbledon champion Williams, at No. 6 in the world, was ranked just one place higher than her opponent but played on a different level, taking a vice-like grip on the match from the start.

The seven-time Grand Slam winner raced into a 3-0 lead in the first set with two breaks of serve and never allowed her opponent into the match as she pounded the Russian on both sides of the court.

Williams, who struck 10 winners and six aces, looks in great shape for this month’s Australian Open title, which she has never won.

Earlier, Dulko and Chakvetadze, ranked No. 18, struggled with their serving, with five straight breaks at the start of the match.

But the decider went with serve until the ninth game, when a deft volley by 49th-ranked Dulko at the net gave her the crucial break and she served out for victory.

The final match of the tournament will be a doubles clash featuring Williams and Coco Vandeweghe against Chakvetadze and Alexandra Panova.

Also See: Slovaks win third Hopman Cup

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