Victoria Azarenka beats Maria Sharapova in Miami final
Victoria Azarenka outplayed Maria Sharapova to win the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami for the second time.
The Belarusian, ranked eighth, came through 6-1 6-4 to match her win at the same Key Biscayne venue two years ago.
Sharapova failed to hold her first six service games and Azarenka held off a late fightback from the Russian to win in one hour and 46 minutes.
Azarenka, 21, has now won six WTA titles and will equal her career-best of sixth in the rankings next week.
"I played really well in the first set but Maria is a great fighter and I had to really hang in there at the end," she said.
"I think I had the right tactics. She likes to swing big, and when she has time it's really heavy. I tried to take time away.
“It's a little bit too late to pick up the pace when you're down a set and 4-0”
"I changed my mentality a little bit. I am enjoying myself so much on the court."
Sharapova, 23, is without a title since last May and has now lost three times in the Miami final.
"It's obviously very disappointing given the other finals here as well but she was definitely the better player today and she has had a great tournament," said the former world number one, who made 43 unforced errors.
Sharapova will return to the top 10 despite the defeat but she was second best from the outset on Sunday, struggling in vain to hold her opening service game and, after breaking straight back, seeing five games in a row slip by.
A Sharapova double fault put Azarenka in command at 2-0 in the second set but the Russian mounted a comeback of sorts, cutting the deficit to 4-3, only to give up another break, again with a double fault.
Azarenka duly followed suit as nerves gripped her with the finishing line in sight but Sharapova was not in the kind of form to make her opponent pay, dropping serve one final time to hand over the match.
"It's a little bit too late to pick up the pace when you're down a set and 4-0," said Sharapova. "I wish I picked it up earlier, obviously. She did many things better than I did today."
And the former Wimbledon, US and Australian Open champion could take some comfort from a projected raking of nine on Monday.
"It means that I'm winning matches, and winning more of them," she said. "It has been a long road to get here. It's not over yet."
In the men's doubles final, Indian third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes defeated second seeds Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Canadian Daniel Nestor 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 10-5.