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Azarenka sets sights on top ranking

NOTHING seems to faze teenager Victoria Azarenka, who lifted her first top tier title with victory over world No. 1 Serena Williams in the Sony Ericsson Open final at Key Biscayne, Florida, on Saturday.

With her third WTA tour win of the year, the Belarussian has stormed into the top 10 in the world rankings and is setting her sights on the top spot.

"That's the goal. That's the whole reason I'm playing. I think everybody's goal is to try to be No. 1.

"I'm not going to say, 'I'm going to be there', but I'll try to do my best," she said.

Her 6-3, 6-1 victory over an injury-hampered Williams brought US$600,000 in prize money - an amount that would overwhelm most young players but not Azarenka.

"I can spend it in one day," she said with a grin. "You can buy a car, jewelry, a watch or whatever".

It surely helps that with two tournament wins under her belt - from Brisbane, Australia, and Tennessee - Azarenka has already had a taste of success and drives around Scottsdale, Arizona, where she lives, in a Mercedes.

The blonde girl from Minsk, who moved to the US four years ago, has a maturity on the court beyond her years.

Most 19-year-olds, faced with the prospect of taking on the powerful serve of US and Australian Open champion Williams, a winner of 10 grand slam titles, would face a sleepless night.

The 11th-seeded Azarenka, though, said she hardly even thought about her game as she followed her usual routine in her Miami hotel on Friday night.

"I never think about the match until it's right before the warm up. I never do, so I wasn't thinking about it last night," she said.

"That's why I probably don't get that nervous as maybe some others do," she added.

There were no signs of tension in Azarenka's play - she moved confidently and fluently and played her powerful backhand with ease.

The loss ended Williams' reign at Key Biscayne. She was bidding for her third title in a row. Instead, she fell to 38-2 in the tournament since 2001, with the only other loss to her sister Venus.

"I'm not that bummed, because I feel like there's next year," Williams said. "And then there's the year after and the year after."

The result continued the rise of 10th-ranked Azarenka, who beat world No. 2 Dinara Safina of Russia en route to the semifinals at Indian Wells, California, two weeks ago.

Williams played with her left thigh taped and struggled to move to her left. She served poorly and had trouble putting Azarenka's 145 kilometers per hour serves into play.

Williams said her left thigh began bothering her in the quarterfinals, and she also was bothered by a sprained ankle.

Williams dropped serve five times and committed unforced errors on 34 of the 64 points she lost. Despite reaching the final, she was erratic throughout the tournament: She lost five games in a row a staggering five times.

Despite the defeat, she'll retain the No. 1 ranking for a 10th consecutive week this week, while Azarenka will rise to No. 8.


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