Safarova Beats Azarenka & Wins Doha
Published February 28, 2015 12:15
There were signs earlier in the week something big was happening. Unseeded, Safarova took out three seeds en route to the final, namely No.5 seed Ekaterina Makarova, No.6 seed Andrea Petkovic and No.9 seed Carla Suárez Navarro. And although she out-ranked Azarenka, that comparison was misleading - Azarenka is a former World No.1 and had won all six of their previous meetings.
A break for Safarova in the first game of the match set the tone, as she rode that break to a 3-1 lead, and after eventually taking the first set, 6-4, she built another 3-1 lead in the second set. From there there was no stopping the Czech, who served impeccably in the match - she hit seven aces in eight service games, including three in a row at one point - and she wrapped the victory up, 6-4, 6-3.
"I felt really good all week here and my performances were better and better, and I just wanted to use the opportunity to really go for it and take the title," Safarova said after the match. "I think I just really enjoyed it out there tonight, the atmosphere, the crowd - and just really went for every point."
The Qatar Total Open is Safarova's sixth WTA title but by far the biggest of them all, being at the Premier level. Her first five WTA titles were all at the International level, namely Oeiras and Forest Hills in 2005, Gold Coast in 2006, Forest Hills again in 2008 and most recently Québec City in 2013.
There's more good news for Safarova - she will rise from No.15 to No.11 on the new WTA Rankings after this, a new career-high - coming into this week her career-high WTA Ranking was No.14.
"I'm really excited and happy about this because it took me quite a few years to get to this point," Safarova said. "I hope it's not a finish point and I can still improve. 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 on a 14-match winning streak at this tournament, having won the title in her last two appearances in 2012 and 2013 (she had to sit out the 2014 tournament due to a foot injury).
The two-time Australian Open champion was playing her first WTA final since last January, though.
"It's been a long week for me. It's been a while since I had that many matches in a row," Azarenka said. "Sometimes the body needs to get back into that rhythm. It wasn't my best today, but I tried my best.
"And there's 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 today, but I just have to move on from this quickly."
Congrats to Lucie Safarova for her biggest win in her career:), and of course well done Roger!!!— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) February 28, 2015