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Tennis: Safarova stops resurgent Azarenka to win Qatar Open

March 1, 2015: Lucie Safarova won the most important trophy of her career on Saturday night by beating former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-3 to win the Qatar Total Open and her first Premier-level title, www.wtatennis.com reported.

 

Safarova, 28, will rise from World No. 15 to No. 11 after the left-hander completed a sensational week in which she also beat fifth seed Ekaterina Makarova, sixth seed Andrea Petkovic and ninth seed Carla Suárez Navarro.

 

The unseeded Czech then had to stop a resurgent Azarenka, who was ranked World No. 48 ahead of her first WTA final since last January, before a recurring foot injury disrupted her 2014 season.

 

Despite losing her six previous matches against Azarenka, Safarova broke in the first game and rode that break to a 3-1 lead before taking the first set. She also built a 3-1 lead in the second set and never looked back. The Czech served impeccably, hitting seven aces in eight service games, including three in a row at one point.

 

“I felt really good all week here and my performances were better and better,” said Safarova, whose previous career-high ranking was World No. 14.

 

“I just wanted to use the opportunity to really go for it and take the title. I think I just really enjoyed it out there – the atmosphere, the crowd – and just really went for every point.”

 

Lucie Safarova will rise to World No. 11 after winning the biggest title of her career at the Qatar Total Open. Photo: AFP.

Lucie Safarova will rise to World No. 11 after winning the biggest title of her career at the Qatar Total Open. Photo: AFP.

The Qatar Total Open is Safarova’s sixth WTA title, but biggest by far, with her first five all at International level – Oeiras and Forest Hills in 2005, Gold Coast in 2006, Forest Hills again in 2008 and Québec City in 2013.

 

“I’m really excited and happy about this because it took me quite a few years to get to this point. I hope it’s not a finish point and I can still improve,” said Safarova, who reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year.

 

“My game improved a lot the last couple of years. I think me and my coach, Rob Steckley, have been doing a great job together. It’s just hard work and also maturing a little bit. I think it’s just everything coming together right now.”

 

Azarenka was also encouraged after showing signs that she’s returning to her formidable best. The six-foot Belarusian won the Australian Open and reached the US Open final in both 2012 and 2013, and was on a 14-match winning streak in Doha.

 

However, having won the title in her previous two appearances, she had to sit out last year’s tournament due to her foot injury and is now making her way back up the ranks after calling a halt to her injury-interrupted 2014 season in September.

 

“It has been a long week for me. It has been a while since I had that many matches in a row. Sometimes the body needs to get back into that rhythm. It wasn’t my best today, but I tried my best,” said Azarenka, who met David Beckham during the week.

 

“There has been a lot of progress this week. A lot of good things happened; a lot of great matches. There are a lot of things I can take with me and can keep working on. I’m still really motivated. I’m obviously disappointed for losing the final, but I just have to move on from this quickly.”

 

In the doubles, American pair Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears stunned top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan and Sania Mirza of India 6-4, 6-4 to capture their first title of the year. Hsieh and Mirza have teamed up since the beginning of the year.

 

For original story and video, visit: www.wtatennis.com/news/article/4524666/title/safarova-beats-azarenka-wins-doha

 

Source: WTA (www.wtatennis.com); Editing by SportAsia

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