MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria Azarenka started celebrating, then suddenly did a double-take to ask her coach, "What happened?"
The answer: She had just produced one of the most lopsided Australian Open final victories to capture a Grand Slam title and the No. 1 ranking for the first time.
Azarenka routed three-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in 1 hour, 22 minutes on Saturday night, winning 12 of the last 13 games after dropping her first service game and falling behind 2-0.
"It's a dream come true," she said. "I have been dreaming and working so hard to win the Grand Slam, and being No. 1 is pretty good bonus. Just the perfect ending and the perfect position to be in."
Azarenka had won 11 straight matches, including a run to the Sydney International title, and reached her first Grand Slam final. Her previous best performance at a major was a semifinal loss to Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon last year. Sharapova had all the experience, being in her sixth major final and having won three — dating to her 2004 Wimbledon title.
But it didn't unnerve the 22-year-old Azarenka, the first woman from Belarus to win a singles major. She's also the seventh different woman to win a Grand Slam since Francesca Schiavone won the 2010 French Open, and the fifth different winner in as many majors.
Azarenka became only the third woman to earn the No. 1 spot after winning her first major title. She moved from No. 3 to No. 1 in the rankings, helped by Caroline Wozniacki's loss in the quarterfinals.
The third-seeded Azarenka set up championship point with a stunning forehand, her 14th clean winner, and sealed it when Sharapova netted a backhand.
She dropped to her knees at the baseline with her hands over her face. She got up, held her hands up and jogged over to her coach, Sam Sumyk, in the stands to celebrate.
"The best feeling, for sure," Azarenka said. "I don't know about the game. I don't know what I was doing out there. It's just pure joy what happened. I can't believe it's over."
And she paid special credit to her grandmother, "the person who inspires me the most in my life."
There was a time when she'd momentarily flirted with the idea of quitting the sport during a quick trip home to Minsk after a loss at Doha. But she was quickly set straight by her family, including her grandmother, who had reportedly worked three jobs until the age of 71.
"She did everything better than I did today. I had a good first couple of games, and that was about it," Sharapova said. "Then she was the one that was taking the first ball and hitting it deep and aggressive. I was always the one running around like a rabbit, you know, trying to play catch-up all the time."
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (2) Rafael Nadal
Today, 7 a.m.
Bryan twins lose
Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek denied Bob and Mike Bryan their record 12th Grand Slam doubles title, beating the American twins 7-6 (1), 6-2 in the final of the Australian Open on Saturday.
The 33-year-old Bryans were attempting to secure their place as the most decorated doubles team since the Open Era began in 1968. The Bryan brothers remain tied with the Australian duo of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge with 11 major titles.
— Associated Press