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April 2, 2011

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Sony Ericsson Open 2011, Miami, Florida, USA
April 2, 2011
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


 

Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Azarenka wins SEO
 
April 2, 2011 -- It was a loud and not very interesting match, at first. Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova exchanged blistering groundstrokes, as their grunting songs changed pitch, tone and rhythm, until fans mocked them. Their reaction probably wouldn't have been so rude, had either finalist held serve.
 
But then, Azarenka took charge. She anticipated Sharapova's every move and shot. She was faster to the ball. Balanced as she swung. With each point won, she relaxed and gained confidence, hitting out more and more. Her backhand was a stunning show of precision and physical force. Her service return an arrow to Maria's heart.
 
"That's one of my weapons," Azarenka said, in a matter of fact manner. "I returned really well today."
 
On the other side of the net, Sharapova struggled to find her normally aggressive game, her serve still uncooperative. Without that to anchor her game, she fell behind in rallies. But Azarenka's ground game was the genesis of her tennis. She continually drilled deep shots and pinned Maria to the baseline, as a result. Azarenka effectively shut down Sharapova's lethal first-strike tennis.
 
"I think I had the right tactics," Azarenka said. "She likes to swing big, and when she has time it's very heavy and coming fast. I was trying to take time away and not let her do that."
 
"She did many things better than I did today," Sharapova said, obviously disappointed with her loss, the third in a Miami final. "She was the aggressive one. She returned better and did a lot of things better than I did."
 
One of Azarenka's assets was her state of mind. She speaks freely about her change of heart from a dramatic perfectionist, although all tennis players could be called that, to a young woman who is on court because she loves the game.
 
"I went home [Minsk, Belarus] after Doha and spent three days just by myself," the newly crowned champion said. "I realized few things what I want to do with my life, how to really find that balance to raise my level. I guess it takes time and sometimes loneliness to realize what you have to do in your life."
 
Her epiphany led to happiness. "I just tried every day to be happy, to enjoy myself on the court, and do, as I said, the best job as I can. I just don't care if I lose."
 
An attitude like this flies in the face of commonly accepted tennis wisdom, which firmly endorses the drive to win. You have to want to win. If you don't win you are going down in the rankings and then who knows where your life will end up because it certainly will end without match victories. Then, who knows, the endorsements will dry up.
 
"You always care to win," Azarenka explained. "I don't want to create such a big drama out of it. If you lose the match, you just lose a tennis match. It's not the end of the world. I'll fight for every ball, and do the best job possible. What outcome comes, it's not up to me."
 
Having a 'live and let live' spiritual attitude on court for such a young tennis star -- 21 -- seems somewhat out of place. This type of transformation -- from strained to serene -- usually occurs much later in a career. If Azarenka can sustain her lighthearted Zen-like belief she could possibly produce prodigious results.
 
And like all aspiring tennis phenoms, Azarenka wants to climb up to the highest-ranking possible. "But I would like to take it step by step and really develop my game."
 
On Monday when the WTA rankings are announced, Azarenka will be the #6 player in the world, equaling her career high.
 
Sharapova will be ranked #9, the first time she's been back in the top ten since the 2009 Australian Open.
 
"You always want to build your game and be better," Sharapova began. "I never want to feel satisfied. I don't think that's the right mentality."
 
Maria Sharapova is about as tenacious a tennis star as ever has played the game. As cliched as it sounds, she fights. She compartmentalizes each point. Today, she demonstrated her resolve in full form come the critical -- like really critical -- seventh game of the second set. Down two breaks of serve, she mounted a comeback.
 
She came from two breaks down to even the score and shook the ground under Azarenka, rattling her enough to force a double fault as she initially served for the match. But when Maria stepped up to the baseline to take advantage of all her hard work, she blinked -- she double faulted. The championship was now Azarenka's to take, which she did 61 64.
 
"It was an off day," Sharapova said simply. "There were many games when I was up and didn't hold serve. There were many games it was 30-all on her serve and I missed a return. That just takes away all the pressure from her. It gives her all the confidence in the world."
 
Victoria Azarenka will bank $700,000 for her victory. She says she has all the things she wants in life. "It's not money that's going to make me happy. But it's nice," she said smiling. "You can't complain."
 

 

 
[8] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d [16] Maria Sharapova (RUS) {blue dress} 61 64
 
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Awards Ceremony 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis

 
Earlier Columns from this Event:
 
April 1, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Final Four In Miami - Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Fish
March 31, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Don't Mess With Maria; Federer Into Semifinals - Sharapova, Petkovic, Nadal, Berdych, Federer, Simon
March 30, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Live or Electronic - Fish, Ferrer, Azarenka, Clijsters, Djokovic, Anderson, Zvonareva, Radwanska
March 29, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Coming Up, Coming Back
March 28, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: The Grand Slam of South America
March 27, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Is Bigger Better?
 

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