It was a very strange match; some would even call it a mismatch and it reveals a new pattern that has emerged with Sharapova in finals that I mentioned yesterday. In the major finals that Sharapova has lost, the matches have not been remotely close. She won a mere 5 games in losing to Petra Kvitova in the 2011 Wimbledon final, she won 3 games losing to Serena Williams in the 2007 Australian Open final and last night she won 3 games in one set and none in the other against Azarenka last night. The difference was that in those first two losses she was completely outmatched by the other player, who played some of the best tennis of their career. In the match with Azarenka, however, Sharapova lost because she simply played badly, especially after grabbing a 2-0 lead. Her groundstrokes started flying wide and into the net, on both sides, even her usually dependable backhand side. Neither player is known for their movement but even though she was playing on her best surface, Sharapova was moving like she was playing on her worst, with her feet mired in cement. Once Azarenka got over the jitters of playing in her first major she gained control of her game and basically all she had to do was keep the ball in the court and watch from across the net as her opponent self-destructed, which Sharapova did in historic fashion. I believe it was the first bagel set in a major women's singles final since Serena Williams beat Dinara Safina 6-0 6-3 in the 2009 Australian Open final. (The most recent bagel sets in majorwomen's singles finals were Justine Henin over Clijsters in 2003 at the French Open, Venus Williams over Henin in 2000 at Wimbedon land Martina Hingis over Venus Williams in 1997 at the U.S. Open.)
Azarenka's win makes her the 21st woman to sit atop the WTA rankings and won her 2.4 million Australian dollars. Still at #2 is Kvitova, with Sharapova at #3 and former #1 Caroline Wozniacki sinking to #4. Interestingly, the last 5 major singles tournament on the women's side have been won by 5 different people: Azarenka, Samantha Stosur, Petra Kvitova, Li Na and Kim Clijsters. An exciting time for women's tennis!