Entering the final of the Qatar Total Open in Doha, Victoria Azarenka was 1-11 all-time against Serena Williams, including 0-5 last year, but now that she’s about to lose the No.1 ranking to the American, the-still-top-ranked Belarusian had extra fuel in her tank and overcame the otherwise overly dominant Williams to claim her second straight title at the tournament. Azarenka is now one of only four players that managed to beat Serena since April 2012, joining Virginie Razzano, Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens (Serena has won 60 of her last 64 matches).
After a first-round bye, the top-seeded Azarenka beat Romina Oprandi, Christina McHale, sixth seed Sara Errani, fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, not losing more than three games per set, but in the final encounter of the event, Azarenka faced a set point in the first-set tiebreak and lost the second set before taking a 3-0, and then a 5-2 lead in the third, to eventually win 7-6(6) 2-6 6-3. Both players finished the match with three winners more than unforced errors (Azarenka was 30-27, Serena 51-48), while Azarenka won just two points more than her opponent to snap a nine-match losing streak against her and earn $426,000 in prize money.
Both Azarenka and Williams are now heading to Dubai. Azarenka has a chance to win back her No.1 ranking, but she would have to reach the final of Dubai, and if Serena reaches it too, then Azarenka would have to beat her. (photo: Ralf Reinecke)