Let her celebration begin: Azarenka wins Bank of the West title


By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Let her eat cake. Victoria Azarenka certainly deserves it.

A day after her 21st birthday, Azarenka became the latest Bank of the West Classic champion. She beat Maria Sharapova, 6-4, 6-1, in Sunday's final for her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of the season and her fourth career title.

"I don't want to have any regrets when I play, even if I lose matches," Azarenka said. "I have to go for it and cannot step back. I push myself forward on every point."

After suffering through a series of injuries during the clay court season, Azarenka has come alive as the U.S. Open series swings into full gear. She's won all four of her titles on hard court.

And now that she has some time, what will see be doing for her birthday?

"I want a cake," she said. "I want some ice cream . . . something besides cinnamon. I want to see my friends and family in Arizona of I have time."

That will depend on when she's scheduled to play her first-round match at the next WTA Tour stop in San Diego, which begins Monday. She drew Melanie Oudin.

"I'm just excited to compete on the court with so many great players," Azarenka said. "I'm excited to go out there and show some spirit."

Azarenka currently lives and trains in Scottsdale. She moved there from Minsk (Belarus) for the better living and training conditions.

She had a breakthrough season in 2009, winning her first three events, including the Premiere event in Miami.

"While I was injured I still tried to do my work," Azarenka said. "After Wimbledon I took some time off and had three solid weeks of training."

Azarenka's reaction to winning was rather subdued. She dropped her racket where she stood and calmly walked to the net to share congratulations with Sharapova.

Azarenka made her second appearance at the tournament. She had lost in the first round to Maria Kirilenko in 2007. An unknown then, she's certainly made a name for herself since.

"They do this tournament on the campus of a college," Azarenka said. "It's amazing to see how well they organize it."

Meanwhile, Sharapova didn't see losing the final as any kind of setback.

"I'll take the positives out of the week," she said. "My next one is Cincinnati and I'll work toward that. You can always learn something from any match."

Sharapova will move to No. 13 when the WTA Tour releases its latest rankings on Monday. She's nearing her highest raking (12) since returning to the Tour in May of 2009 following shoulder surgery.

"She's had a lot of great wins in her career," Sharapova said. "I'm sure we'll be playing many more times."

The doubles final turned into a barn burner, with Lindsay Davenport and Liezel Huber needing over two hours to beat Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng, 7-5, 6-7(8), 10-8.

Davenport and Huber first played together at the Beijing Olympics. This is their second tournament together.

They are no strangers to doubles play. Davenport has 38 career doubles titles and has appeared in 61 finals. Huber, who will retake No. 1 when the new rankings are released Monday, has won 43 doubles titles and made her 71st appearance in a final.

Davenport, a former No. 1 singles player and fan favorite at Stanford, last won a doubles title at Memphis, with Lisa Raymond, in 2008.

Chan and Zheng first paired at Dubai this year, reaching the quarterfinals. They won at Kuala Lumpar.

Men's tennis

In Los Angeles, Stanford products Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan won their record 62nd career doubles title on the ATP Tour on Sunday.

The twin brothers defeated American Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer of Netherlands Antilles 6-7 (8-6), 6-2 (10-7) in the Farmers Classic, the Bryans' 100th career final.

They had been tied with Hall of Famers Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde of Australia, who won 61 titles.

"The Woodies put a record way out there. Sixty-one was Mount Everest when we started," Mike Bryan said. "We love what we do. To get this, one of their many records, is special."

Woodforde was on hand to congratulate the brothers.

"For many, many years you've been traveling in elite company. Thanks to the victory today you're in rarefied air. You guys stand together as one," he said. "I know this 62nd victory has been waiting since May. Our run sort of ended because I elected to retire, but I know you two will continue for years to come. The floodgates will open entirely, so I know 70, 80 will come."

The Bryans won their sixth title in the tournament at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the UCLA campus, not far from their hometown of Camarillo in Ventura County.

Their Stanford coach, Dick Gould, watched while helping with the Bank of the West Classic.

It was their 16th consecutive match win in the Farmers Classic. Mike jumped into Bob's arms to celebrate in front of several family members, including parents Wayne and Kathy.

"We really looked up to the Woodies," Bob said. "They didn't have the power and big serves, but they had the poaching and the technique. To share this record with my brother is everything."

There were no service breaks in the first set, when the Bryans blew two leads in the tiebreaker. Butorac and Rojer won the final three points to take the tiebreaker.

The Bryans rallied to win the second set, which featured five service breaks.

In the match tiebreak -- the first to 10 points with a two-point margin wins -- the Bryans raced to a 5-0 lead as fans chanted for them. Butorac and Rojer twice tied it, the last at 7-all, before the brothers won the final three points to make history.

Butorac and Rojer, who played college tennis at UCLA, were playing their first final together.

-- AP contributed to this report.

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Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2010 at 11:36 am

Great tournament this year. Much to appreciate in the talent and the play of the women athletes. The grunting, or in this case the shrieking, should not be tolerated in professional sports. Sharapova's shrieks in particular went well beyond the rules offair play.

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