Today is a big day for women’s tennis, as we have a new number one – Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian dethroned Caroline Wozniacki from the top position by winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open over the weekend. Let’s see the numbers behind Azarenka’s 6-3 6-0 victory over Maria Sharapova in the Melbourne final. Thanks, Omair, for contributing another statistical analysis to Women’s Tennis Blog.
When Maria Sharapova walked on the Centre Court at Wimbledom last year, she intended to complete her comeback from shoulder injury by winning the tournament that she had won back in 2004 at the age of 17. However, Petra Kvitova had other plans. Sharapova ended up losing the Wimbledon final and hence a chance to complete her comeback. In the Australian Open final, as Sharapova walked onto the Rod Laver Arena, she knew she had another chance to complete her comeback. Last year at Centre Court it was against young gun Kvitova, and this year at Rod Laver Arena it was against another youngster, Azarenka.
There is a remarkable similarity between the two scenarios. It was Kvitova’s first major final (before making the final, it was Kvitova’s second Grand Slam semifinal appearance, the first one coming at Wimbledon 2010, where she lost to the eventual champion Serena Williams in the semis). The same was true here for Azarenka. It was her first major final in her second attempt at the semifinals (her last semifinal appearance came last year at Wimbledon where she also lost to the eventual champion, Kvitova).
I had picked Sharapova to win the Wimbledon last year, given the fact that it was Kvitova’s first major final, added by the fact that Sharapova had the experience with her and she had played at that stage before. Still, Kvitova came out at the top. A remarkable similarity happened at this year’s Australian Open. However, this year I picked Azarenka to win the trophy. There were a lot of similarities in this year’s Australian Open final and last year’s Wimbledon final, and so was the result. Azarenka came out at top ousting the 2008 Australian Open finalist in one of the most one-sided finals at the Australian Open.
It was Sharapova who started the match on fire, and it was Azarenka who was shaky and nervous at the start of the match throwing in two double faults in the opening game to hand Sharapova her first break. Sharapova held her serve to go up 2-0. Azarenka held and then broke Sharapova to bring the match back to serve. Sharapova while serving at 2-3 served her way out of deuce, by serving an ace wide and an ace down the T to hold her serve, which would have been her last hold of serve. From there on it was all Azarenka, it felt like it was Azarenka who was a three-time Grand Slam champion and Sharapova was the first time Grand Slam finalist. Azrenka took the first set 6-3 and bageled Sharapova in the second set.
Azarenka held her composure beautifully, showing that she is going to be a major force in the upcoming year. A great start of the year for Azarenka who kept her 2012 winning streak alive, and will no doubt look to build on it as the year progresses.
Let’s see what the numbers tell us:
Sharapova’s winning percentage on her first serve dropped drastically, as did the winning percentage on her second serve. She won only 3 of the 17 points of her second serve. What added fuel to the fire was her unforced errors, she had a differential of negative 16, whereas Azarenka had a differential of positive 2. Sharapova’s return of serve, and her break point conversion which had been her greatest strengths also deserted her as she won only 37% of the receiving points and went 1 of 4 on the break point chances.
Azarenka who had gone to the 3 setters in her last 2 matches here at the Melbourne park, did not want to take this match to the distance as she upped her level and played cleanly and with great composure till the end. By the end of the day, Azarenka just out-classed Saharapova and she was just the better player today in each and every way.
Azarenka won more than a match, she won her first Grand Salm, she won the top spot in the rankings, she became the first ever Belarusian to win a top spot in tennis and to win a major, she became the only player in the WTA history to grab the top spot without ever being ranked world No.2 in her career before grabbing the top spot.
At the end of the match there were no hugs and kisses, just cold handshakes. For Sharapova, she will definitely need some time to get this defeat out of her mind. First it was Kvitova who denied Sharapova a chance at her first major after injury, and now it was Azarenka. In both those matches, Sharapova entered the match with greater experience and with greater chances to win the match as compared to her opponents, but both times she came out as the loser.
However, I believe that Sharapova’s time will come soon, when she will complete her comeback and win her first major after her surgery. For now on it is all Azarenka. Before the final, Azarenka was asked in a conference if winning a major meant to her more or grabbing the top spot. She answered it in style, I don’t remember the exact words, but something like “There is no better way to grab the top spot than by winning a major and there should be a balance between the two.” Well said by Azarenka, and she proved it by her performance in the Melbourne final.
Omair, thank you very much for all your previews of Australian Open matches and your post-match analyses. Your contributions to Women’s Tennis Blog have been marvelous and I hope that you will share your tennis insights with us for the long time to come. (photos: © Neal Trousdale)