Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has warned there are no limits to what she could achieve after destroying Maria Sharapova in the final.
Playing in the first grand slam title match of her career, the 22-year-old from Belarus showed nerves of steel to demolish 2008 champion Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in one hour and 22 minutes and immediately set her sights on the rest of the year.
"It's going to be a long year. It's going to be a lot of matches. I just want to keep improving," the new world number one said.
"I feel like there is no limit really."
After making a slow start and going 2-0 down, the Belarusian won 12 of the next 13 games to sweep to the title with Sharapova unable to respond.
"It's a dream come true, you know. I have been dreaming and working so hard to win a grand slam, and being number one is a pretty good bonus," said Azarenka, who replaces Caroline Wozniacki as world number one on Monday.
Azarenka dominated Sharapova by stepping up to the baseline and taking the ball early, pressuring the Russian into making a host of uncharacteristic errors.
She outplayed Sharapova in all departments, matching the Russian's power from the back of the court and volleying confidently.
"Today I didn't think going into the match that I had to play perfect. I just had to play better than my opponent," she said.
"The first two games were a little bit of a disaster, but then I kind of got the momentum going.
"I relaxed and I started focusing on the moment on each point, you know, trying to do whatever it takes to win that point."
Despite appearing ice cool on the outside, Azarenka admitted she had been a bundle of nerves before the final.
"I was super nervous, I couldn't wait to actually go on the court and play," she said.
"It was a long wait, you know. I was like, OK, I'm ready to go. I'm ready to go. When is it coming? When is it coming? What time is it?
"I just think I really handled the situation well after that little slack period in the beginning."
"She really started aggressively," Azarenka added.
"It kind of kept me a little bit off guard, because I tried to be aggressive myself and it didn't really work. I missed a few shots.
"But I'm glad I could stay humble and just take it one at a time. Just keep fighting, keep fighting, and changing the momentum."
Sharapova insisted the best was still ahead of her despite the devastating defeat.
"She did everything better than I did today. I had a good first couple of games, and that was about it," Sharapova said bluntly.
"Obviously to get to the final is a good achievement, but to end up being the one that loses is always tough, no matter what sport you're in.
"But I'm proud of the fact that I made it this far. It's been a few years since I've been in the finals of the Australian Open.
"It's a good start to the year for me. I have a lot to look forward to this year."
Sharapova won the last of her three grand slams in Melbourne in 2008, before shoulder surgery later that year knocked her out of the sport for nine months and set her career back on its heels.
"It's frustrating, but I have a pretty good head on my shoulders in terms of having a good perspective on sport and life," she said.
"And as hard as it is and as much as you want to be the champion, there's only one.
"That's why the feeling is so special when you do achieve that. That's why the work is so hard and extreme.
"That's why the pleasure that you get and the excitement is what you work for, because you know how special it is."
AFPTags: sport, tennis, australian-open, australia, vic, melbourne-3000 First posted January 29, 2012 12:12:35