Azarenka stuns erratic Williams in Indian Wells final

Sun Mar 20, 2016 5:02pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Former world number one Victoria Azarenka took advantage of an error-prone display by Serena Williams to win her second BNP Paribas Open title with a 6-4 6-4 victory in Sunday's final at Indian Wells in California.

The 26-year-old Belarusian broke the top-seeded American once in the opening set and twice in the second before wrapping up the win in just under 90 minutes in front of a stunned crowd at the sun-baked Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

World number one Williams, seeking a third title at Indian Wells after winning her second a distant 15 years ago, was badly let down by her forehand, though she did mount a late fightback and broke Azarenka in the eighth game of the second set for 3-5.

The American came close to leveling with Azarenka, serving for the match, wobbling at 15-40 but the Belarusian fired an ace, got to deuce when Williams hit a backhand long and clinched victory when her opponent hit a forehand service return long.

A visibly emotional Azarenka, the 13th seed who claimed her first Indian Wells crown in 2012, was able to celebrate her fourth victory over Williams in a WTA final, and a 19th career title.

"I had no doubt in my mind that I will give everything I can," Azarenka told ESPN in a courtside interview about the see-sawing final game of the match.

"I couldn't control how she was going to play and she was throwing some bombs there.

"But I stayed tough because it's the only way to win, to stay strong, to keep doing what's been working. I just wanted to work hard, give it my all, and it worked."

Williams was also emotional, having won at Indian Wells in 1999 and 2001 before taking a self-imposed 14-year exile from the event amidst allegations of racial abuse from fans after her sister Venus withdrew minutes before their semi-final showdown.   Continued...

 
Mar 20, 2016; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Victoria Azarenka (BLR) holds the championship trophy after defeating Serena Williams (not pictured) in the women's final in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Azarenka won 6-4, 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports