Tennis: Azarenka wins Australian Open

Victoria Azarenka is the new world women's tennis No.1 after turning on the power and style to outclass Maria Sharapova in Saturday night's Australian Open final.

Azarenka overcame early jitters to win the battle of the scream queens 6-3 6-0 in one hour and 22 minutes at Melbourne Park.

Apart from securing the top ranking and the record US$2.3 million (A$2.17 million) winner's cheque, the 22-year-old is also the first Belarusian to be crowned a grand slam singles champion.

Sharapova, the 2008 Open champion and 2007 runner-up, also went into the high-stakes encounter with the chance to displace Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki atop the rankings.

But the triple major winner and fourth seed had no answer to Azarenka's awesome baseline firepower.

The third seed dominated from the back of the court, running Sharapova from side to side and, on several occasions, even had the scrambling Russian attempting desperate left-handed returns.

Azarenka's career earnings crashed through the US$10 million mark after she pocketed the biggest cheque in grand slam history.

But her victory wasn't as popular with fans as it would have been for her bank manager, with at least one disgruntled spectator at Rod Laver Arena sporting ear muffs during the high-decibel encounter.

Azarenka, who candidly confessed to experiencing many meltdowns earlier in her career, said after her semi-final win over defending champion Kim Clijsters that her serving hand felt like it weighed about 200kg as she tried to close out the contest.

The Belarusian made a similarly nervous start in her maiden grand slam final, coughing up three double-faults to drop her very first service game.

Sharapova consolidated for a 2-0 lead before Azarenka settled and began to take command.

Three errors from Sharapova gifted Azarenka the break back for 2-2 and then there was no stopping the Belarusian.

She reeled off nine games straight to take the first set and then the title when Sharapova netted a backhand on her first match point.

- AAP

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