Tennis: Safarova sees off Azarenka for Qatar title

Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic holds up her trophy after defeating Belarus' Victoria Azarenka in their women's singles final match at the Qatar Open tennis tournament in Doha on Feb 28, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic holds up her trophy after defeating Belarus' Victoria Azarenka in their women's singles final match at the Qatar Open tennis tournament in Doha on Feb 28, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

DOHA (AFP) - Lucie Safarova continued her fine start to 2015 by claiming her first ever victory over Victoria Azarenka to win the Qatar Open title in Doha on Saturday.

The Czech won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, to boost her chances of realising her "dream" of getting into the world top 10.

She will now be placed at a career-best 11 - up four places - when the new rankings come out early next week.

Despite coming under intense pressure from a revitalised Azarenka, Safarova held her nerve in a tight contest to claim the title in a match lasting a little under 90 minutes.

The victory in Qatar comes on top of her women's doubles victory last month at the Australian Open.

It is the first time she has had back-to-back tournament wins.

The 28-year-old Czech described the victory as "amazing".

Asked it this was her best win, Safarova, said: "It's up there." "After last year, I reached my best ranking which was 14 and the next target - and dream as well - would be the top ten, which I am really close to right now. It's hard work and everything has to click together but I am one step closer," she told reporters.

Pressed further, Safarova said she would love to win Wimbledon because of the "tradition".

In a tight first set, both players managed to hold onto their serve until the ninth game when Safarova made the decisive break.

She was then taken to deuce on her next service game but managed - just - to hold to take the first set.

Safarova, who played the game throughout with a heavy strapping on her left thigh, broke early in the second set but was still made to work for every point by the former world number one.

The turning point seemed to be the eighth game when Safarova served to love, powering down three aces.

That seemed to sap any remaining strength from Azarenka who lost her next service game tamely, handing Safarova her sixth WTP singles title.

In six previous matches, Safarova had never beaten Azarenka and had only ever managed to take one set off the Belarussian, prior to Saturday.

The final proved a game too far for Azarenka, after a fine victory against Venus Williams in the semi-finals just 24 hours earlier.

That three-setter seemed to drain strength from Azarenka, who was seen limping at points in the match.

She said her body felt "tight" throughout.

"It's been a while since I played that many matches in a row, it wasn't my best but I tried my best," Azarenka told reporters afterwards.

But her appearance in the final still capped a fine week for the current world number 48 who is continuing her rehabilitation from a foot injury which wiped out most of last season.

"There a lot of progress this week, a lot of good things happened, a lot of great matches, that was what I was looking (for(. I have had a lot of great things actually this week that I can take. I am still really motivated, obviously disappointed today."