World number one Victoria Azarenka clinched her fourth title of the year with a 6-2,6-3 demolition of an error-prone Maria Sharapova in the final of the Indian Wells WTA tournament on Monday (AEDT).
On a cold and blustery day, the Belarusian broke Sharapova's serve twice in the opening set and four times in the second to seal a commanding victory in one hour, 26 minutes on the showpiece stadium court.
Although Azarenka faced a little more resistance from Sharapova late in the second set, she held off the Russian's fightback and ended the match with a probing backhand which forced a desperate lob from her opponent that floated long.
The Australian Open champion dropped her racket in delight and set off on a running jig in the direction of the players' box after improving her record this year to 23-0, the best start to a WTA Tour season since 1997.
Swiss Martina Hingis recorded 37 consecutive victories to launch her 1997 campaign with Azarenka next best on 23 and American Serena Williams in third, with 21 in 2003.
"I was just trying to do my best because I know Maria is a fighter," a beaming Azarenka said in a courtside interview. "I always tried to stay focused and apply as much pressure as I can.
"I never dreamed about that," she added of her perfect start to the season. "It's amazing and I'm just so glad that I have been able to be consistent and disciplined and professional every day."
Azaranka, who won her first grand slam title at the Australian Open in January with a straight sets victory over Sharapova, broke the Russian in the first game of the match when her opponent pushed a backhand wide.
Sharapova had to work hard to hold her notoriously fragile serve in the third game, double-faulting to trail 15-40 before saving three break points for 1-2.
The Russian was again broken in the seventh, netting a forehand to go 15-40 down before Azarenka won the game on the next point with a rasping forehand winner after a lengthy baseline rally.
Azarenka then comfortably held to clinch the opening set in 39 minutes after a Sharapova forehand service return flew long. The Russian challenged the baseline call but the Hawk-Eye ball tracking system confirmed it was good.
Sharapova's serving woes continued in the first game of the second set when she again failed to hold, the Sharapova blasting a forehand wide for Azarenka to lead 0-1.
The frustrated Russian was also broken in the third, Azarenka ending another protracted rally with a sizzling forehand winner down the line to lead 3-0.
Unexpectedly, the pony-tailed Azarenka was broken for the first time in the fourth after Sharapova clawed her way back from 40-15 down, winning the game with a fierce forehand service return which forced an Azarenka error from the baseline.
However Sharapova once again failed to hold serve in the fifth, blasting a forehand long to trail 1-4.
Azarenka also lost serve in the sixth when Sharapova followed a forehand crosscourt winner with a crunching backhand winner down the line, pumping her left fist in celebration.
Though Sharapova finally held for the first time in the set in the seventh, Azarenka won the next two games to improve her career record to 5-3 over the Russian.
ReutersTags: sport, tennis, united-states First posted March 19, 2012 08:08:43