Azarenka denies Williams 3rd title at Indian Wells
VICTORIA Azarenka stunned world No. 1 Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday to capture her second Indian Wells crown and a 19th career singles title.
Azarenka blasted five aces while Williams was undone by 33 unforced errors and five double faults in the 88-minute match.
"Definitely not the game plan," Williams said.
"I think I probably was trying to hit through nerves."
Azarenka, a former world No. 1 now ranked 15th after battling injuries, has been a thorn in the side of Williams over the years and became the first player to deny Williams a trophy on four occasions.
Heading into the contest, Azarenka and Serena's sister, Venus, were the only players to have beaten Williams three times in finals.
The 13th-seeded Azarenka also thwarted Williams' bid to become the first three-time winner of the Indian Wells women's title.
Azarenka got two early breaks at the beginning of both sets against Williams before closing out the match in front of a crowd of about 15,000 on the main stadium court when Williams sailed yet another forehand long.
Williams even got caught standing still and admiring a shot at game point in the eighth game, allowing Azarenka to hit a slow forehand winner into the open court.
Azarenka duly served out the match, adding a second title to the Indian Wells crown she captured in 2012 and earning US$1.02 million (S$1.4 million) for the victory.
With the triumph, Azarenka will also return to the top 10 in the world for the first time since 2014, moving up to No. 8.
However, the win was overshadowed by the remarks of Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore, who claimed women's tennis was riding on the coat-tails of the men's game.
"If I was a lady player, I'd go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport," Moore, a 69-year-old former player from South Africa, told reporters at his annual state of the tournament press conference on Sunday morning.
Not surprisingly, 21-time Grand Slam champion Williams was scathing in her response.
"Obviously, I don't think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that," she said.
She added that she quickly became aware of Moore's remarks via social media, which also included remarks on the physical attractiveness of some of the Women's Tennis Association's rising stars.
A swift backlash had Moore issuing an apology even before the men's Masters final between Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic was completed.
"I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologise to all the players and WTA as a whole," said Moore in a statement.
But Williams said there was no mistaking their meaning.
"You know, there's only one way to interpret that," she said.
"Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man... we, as women, have come a long way.
"We shouldn't have to drop to our knees at any point."