Belarusian tennis sensation Victoria Azarenka has won her first Grand Slam title, beating former champion Maria Sharapova in the final of the Australian Open.
Twenty-two-year-old Azarenka routed Sharapova 6-3 6-0 in 1 hour, 22 minutes, winning 12 of the last 13 games after dropping her first service game and falling behind 2-0.
Azarenka became the first Belarusian to win a grand slam singles title and the first player from her country to top the world rankings, where on January 30 she will replace former world No. 1, Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki.
Speaking after the game, Azarenka thanked her team and her French coach, Samuel Sumyk.
"You guys have been supporting me for so long, and believing in me, and it made me realize that I can believe in myself and I can finally raise this trophy," she said.
Sharapova, who at 24 is a three-time Grand Slam winner, including a victory at Wimbledon in 2004 when she was only 17, congratulated Azarenka.
"As in any sport, you have your good days and you have your tough days and you have days where, you know, things just don't work out," she said. "And today, Victoria was better on so many levels and just played too good."
The final had been dubbed the "Battle of the Screamers,"
with both players notorious for releasing ear-splitting shrieks when they hit the ball.
Meanwhile, back in her native Minsk, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka congratulated the U.S.-based Azarenka and awarded her the Order of the Motherland, calling her in a statement "the pride of the whole nation."
With agency reports