April 4, 2009

Azarenka defeats injured-Serena for Miami title

MIAMI (AFP) - Belarussian teenager Victoria Azarenka clinched the first major title of her career on Saturday by beating top seed and world #1 Serena Williams 6-3, 6-1 in the Miami WTA hardcourt final. Williams, bidding to claim a record sixth title and third in a row, was badly affected by carrying a left thigh injury which got worse as the match progressed. Williams played with her left thigh taped and struggled to move to her left. Despite the defeat, the American was already assured of hanging on to her world #1 ranking for the 71st week of her career.

It was a poor quality final. The players reached 3-3 in the first set before Serena, who had defeated sister Venus in the semi-finals, began to feel her thigh which was heavily-bandaged and which was also supporting her knee. From that point on, the reigning US and Australian Open champion managed to win just one more game. At 19, Azarenka claimed her first major title and third of her career which have all been won in 2009 with the previous two coming in Brisbane and Memphis.Her win will elevate her to #8 in the world when the new rankings are released on Monday.

"It was such an honour to play Serena," Azarenko said in the post-match presentation, broadcast on Eurosport. "She's the greatest player, for me. It's only this season that I have started to believe in myself and to believe that I can win tournaments." Williams refused to blame her injury for her woeful display. "My problems are not an excuse. All the credit goes to Victoria," said Williams who refused to discuss further how serious the injury may be.

She was certainly under-powered on the court with five double faults, a poor 54-percent of first serves successful and an ugly 34 unforced errors. Azarenka tensed up as she served for the title. She double-faulted on her second match point before wrapping up the trophy on her third.

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