Tennis: Safarova sees off Azarenka for Qatar title

Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic celebrates her Qatar Open win on Feb 28, 2015 in Doha. -- PHOTO: AFP
Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic celebrates her Qatar Open win on Feb 28, 2015 in Doha. -- PHOTO: AFP

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".

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.

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.

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