Azarenka claims Brisbane title
Brisbane, January 9
Former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka stormed to her second Brisbane International title when she downed Germany’s Angelique Kerber in straight sets on Saturday.
Azarenka, who won her maiden WTA title in Brisbane in 2009, overwhelmed the fourth-seeded Kerber, winning 6-3, 6-1 in 73 minutes, her sixth win over the German in six meetings.
It was Azarenka’s first title since she won in Cincinnati in August, 2013. She sustained a foot injury in 2014 and only played nine tournaments. In 2015, she suffered a thigh strain that saw her slip down the world rankings. But she steadily improved in each round in Brisbane and showed in the final she will be a serious contender for the Australian Open.
Meanwhile, Swiss maestro Roger Federer reached his third successive Brisbane International final when he crushed Dominic Thiem in a lopsided semi-final.
Federer took just 60 minutes to down the eighth-seeded Austrian 6-1, 6-4 and said afterwards it was the best he had played all week. “I’m getting used to conditions, which is usually the case after a couple of matches,” he said. “You understand the speeds more and you’re more comfortable. Plus I’m definitely also feeling a bit better now.”
The first set lasted just 22 minutes as a shell-shocked Thiem struggled to match the 17-time Grand Slam champion on Pat Rafter Arena. Thiem, 22, settled into the match in the second set and took the fight to his 34-year-old opponent, but a lapse in the seventh game saw him drop his serve and Federer easily held on to book a place in the final. Federer lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the 2014 title-decider and beat Canadian Milos Raonic to win the title last year.
Sunday’s final will be a rematch of 2015 after the huge-serving Raonic edged local hero Bernard Tomic in two close sets. “I played some tough matches (against him) in the last, I don’t know, I guess 16 months or so,” Federer said of Raonic.
The big-serving Raonic hit 13 aces on his way to a 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5) win in one hour, 47 minutes. Tomic had his chances against Raonic, and had four break points in the fifth game of the first set. But Raonic served his way out of danger and neither man was troubled on his own serve thereafter.
With such a huge serve Raonic was always favoured in the tie-breaks and he opened a 5-1 lead on both occasions. Tomic fought back to 5-5 twice but in the end Raonic closed out the match with a lunging backhand volley.