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, 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 a 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.
It didn't unnerve Azarenka, 22, 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 the third woman to earn the No.1 spot after winning her first major title. She moved up from No.3, helped by then-No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki's loss in the quarterfinals.
Azarenka, seeded third, set up the 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 gave special credit to her grandmother, "the person who inspires me the most in my life."
Azarenka has been a distinctive presence at Melbourne Park as much for her shrieks and hoots with each shot and seemingly boundless energy as for her white shorts, blue singlet and lime green head and wrist bands. Against Sharapova, she maintained the frenetic movement that has been the hallmark of her performance in Australia, her 25th consecutive major.
She won the Sydney International title last weekend and is on a 12-match winning streak, and she became the first player since 2004 to win a WTA tour event the week before winning a major.
DOUBLES: Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek denied Wesley Chapel residents Bob and Mike Bryan their record 12th Grand Slam title, beating the twins 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 in the final. The Bryans remain tied with Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge with 11 major titles in the Open era.
Aussie men's final
For the result of the Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal match early today, go to sports.tampabay.com.