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I can't believe a month at the World Cup is about o come to a close on Sunday and I have to say the tournament has been about as good as...

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Australian Open Women's Final Live Updates

If you keep refreshing this thread, the updates should come up... Slightly later than planned, as the match has started but let's get it going...

Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sharapova

Victoria Azarenka *2-2 Maria Sharapova
I just saw the end of the last hold for Azarenka, and she takes that form into the next game by breaking Maria Sharapova to love... It was a big hold in the game before as it settles someone down into the match, although she was helped out massively by some unforced errors from the Russian.

Game on

Victoria Azarenka 3-2* Maria Sharapova
Azarenka follows up the break with a very good service game to hold to 15... It was very important that she got on the board early and there are plenty of positives for her in that game as she was hitting the ball hard enough to cause Sharapova plenty of problems.

I am looking for her consistency to continue here and keep the pressure on. This is a big service game for Sharapova to stop the mini-run of games against her.

Victoria Azarenka *3-3 Maria Sharapova
Sharapova wins the first point of the game, but another unforced error (9th of the match) and a powerful backhand off the ground gives Azarenka the sniff of another chance.

Strong serving from Sharapova under pressure, not for the first time this tournament, gives her game point, but another unforced error sends the game to deuce.

There seems to be a pattern developing her- Sharapova is struggling to win the point if the point is extended into a rally.

Two big serves from Sharapova to hold to 40.

Victoria Azarenka 4-3* Maria Sharapova
Another one of those tough long rallies is won by Azarenka to move up 30-0... It definitely feels that the younger player has the edge here when the rallies are extended.

I think Sharapova needs to continue playing the aggressive tennis, but the court is not helping her as there is still enough time for Azarenka to play defence and force the Russian to play one more ball.

Pressure point at 30-30 for the server, but Sharapova fails to return the ball and Azarenka goes on to hold serve after yet another extended rally, finishing with a nice lob after bringing Sharapova into the net.

Victoria Azarenka *5-3 Maria Sharapova
After a double fault leaves the game at 15 all, some impressive defence from Sharapova allows her to move ahead in the game.

The first serve is clearly the key for Sharapova here as the second is liable to breaking down during the pressure moments in game- that is backed up with a second double fault to pull the game back to deuce.

It had looked a comfortable service game as she moved 40-15 before that, but all of a sudden Azarenka has a break point... However, Sharapova brings out a big serve and does very well in dictating the rally and putting away the chance.

Sharapova has found her serve at just the right time at key moments throughout this tournament, particularly in the third set of her Semi Final against Petra Kvitova, but the pressure is still on in this game... So much so that Azarenka has earned another break point- the game lasted 9 minutes as Azarenka once again uses the drop shot to full effect and puts away an easy chance at the net to now get a chance at serving for the set.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 0-0* Maria Sharapova
This Final has really been one full of quality tennis in my opinion, with both players hitting the ball sweetly and also defending very well.

Azarenka moves through her game and brings up two set points- she only needs one as another unforced error from Sharapova hits the middle of the net. First blood to the youngster and remember that Sharapova has never gone the distance in her previous Grand Slam Finals, whether she has won or lost.

It seems clear to me here that the court is very much favouring Azarenka here as she is the better mover and the better defender of the two players. With it being a lot slower than many hard courts out there, it means Sharapova is having to do MORE to win points and is making too many errors. Sharapova gets to serve first in this set and needs to stay in front on the scoreboard and see whether that creates any additional pressure in Azarenka's mind and gets her to become a little tight.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, *1-0 Maria Sharapova
A great statistic pops up to say Sharapova is winning just 18% of the baseline rallies- I am assuming that means shots of more than 5 shots... I did have a feeling the extended rallies were going in favour of Azarenka, but not to that extent.

A huge point now for Sharapova, even early in the set, as she goes 15-30 down on serve. It just seems she can't punch through Azarenka in these conditions and that is two break points for Azarenka.

A HUGE mistake from Sharapova on the first one gives her opponent the chance to pass, which is gratefully accepted, and there is big trouble brewing for the Russian... Now how does Azarenka's mind hold up as she gets close to her maiden Grand Slam win.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 2-0* Maria Sharapova
A little nervy start to the game for Azarenka as she opens with a double fault and then a mistake to fall 0-30 down... That is all forgotten as Sharapova dumps another simple ball into the net, before Azarenka dictates another punishing rally to move level.

Best return I have seen from Sharapova since the start of the match and she earns a break point- she dictates the point, but seems to take a backward step in the rally that allows Azarenka to take control and force another error.

Far too many mistakes coming from the Sharapova racquet and perhaps the Russian is looking a bit short of ideas as to how to win this match. A couple more errors and Azarenka holds serve.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, *3-0 Maria Sharapova
I might be speaking far too early, but there seems to be very little thought in what Maria Sharapova wants to do to win this game other than hitting the ball harder and harder... That is leading to more errors on a court where the ball does not fly through.

Unfortunately for Sharapova fans, I don't think she has a lot more to her game other than hitting the ball hard, and if that isn't working she is in trouble. There are not enough slices in her game, while her net play is poor at best. Maria has always struggled with her movement, and I just don't see how she can get back into this.

Errors give Azarenka a huge chance with another two break points- again she needs just one of those and now Azarenka is in absolute control of this Grand Slam title and the World Number 1 Ranking.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 4-0* Maria Sharapova
Big moment here for Sharapova- she needs to find something on the Azarenka serve if she truly has desires to make this a contest.

There is no chance for the former World Number 1 to get into this contest and she is going for far too much. Errors are coming thick and fast, and she looks a little clumsy when being moved around the court- Azarenka is now just 2 games from the title with a double break advantage.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, *5-0 Maria Sharapova
Another great example of getting Sharapova to move around and winning the point from Azarenka as she moves two points away from a triple break and a chance to serve for the Championship.

This must be frustrating the life out of Sharapova as she gives up another two break points because she cannot penetrate the Azarenka defences and eventually concedes another error.

The first of those is saved after a big serve, but the pattern that has been going on for the last hour continues with solid defence and the eventual Sharapova error giving Azarenka the chance to serve for the title.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-0 Maria Sharapova
There is no way Sharapova goes anywhere without a fight at least as she crunches a forehand down the line to bring this back to 15 all.

Another crunching groundstroke, this time off the backhand, and Sharapova has a sniff of a chance to extend this match.

Great one-two combination from Azarenka to level the game, but a lucky net cord gives Sharapova a break point... That is missed with another error off the ground from the Russian.

Another wonderful one-two punch gives Azarenka her first Championship point- that's all she needs as another Sharapova backhand goes into the net and we have a new Grand Slam winner and a new World Number 1.

Congratulations to Victoria Azarenka, the 2012 Australian Open Champion and the new World Number 1

It is actually an exciting time for Women's tennis as far as I am concerned now that Azarenka has won her first Grand Slam... With Petra Kvitova at World Number 2, there are finally a couple of Women who will deserve their place at the top of the Rankings, players who have won the biggest tournaments and ones who will clearly be in the consideration for the rest of the Grand Slams this year.

I had a feeling before this match that those two players could have a monopoly on the Grand Slams this season, with Azarenka likely to do better at the French Open, while Kvitova will love the faster surfaces at the US Open and is the defending Wimbledon Champion.

I am looking forward to the rest of the WTA Tour this season, the first time I can say that for a good few years now.

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