Stanford, California :Victoria Azarenka beat Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-1 on Sunday to win the Bank of the West Classic, her first title of the season.
Azarenka, who earned $107,000 for her win, beat Sharapova for the first time in three years and the first time on hard court. They have split four career meetings.
"This is one of the best, definitely," said the young Belarusian. "I'm really excited to compete with so many great players. It's exciting to go out and show my spirit."
After the final point, Azarenka dropped her racket, covered her eyes and walked slowly to the net to shake hands with Sharapova. She went over to hug her coach and returned to the court to acknowledge the crowd.
It was a subdued reaction, although she smiled all the way through the awards ceremony and her press conference.
"I try to dig myself into the court," he said. "I'm changing my game so as not to have the same patterns all the time. The most important thing is to be thinking on the court."
Azarenka's 21st birthday was Saturday and she wanted to delay any celebration until after the tournament. She's not holding back now.
"I want to see my friends and family if I have time," said Azarenka, who opens with American teenager Melanie Oudin in the San Diego tournament that begins Monday. "I want a cake. I want some ice cream, something beside cinnamon."
"I tried to start aggressive right away and not let her come in," Azarenka said of Sharapova. "When she gets on a roll it's hard to keep up. I had to be on top of her every moment and not give her the chance to come back."
She won 6 of 11 break points and was again effective with her return game, winning 57 percent of her total return points, including 12 of 15 on second return points.
"She's one of the most consistent," Sharapova said of Azarenka's return game. "She gets a lot of balls back and every ball is heavy."
Azarenka said it's more out of necessity.
"I have to go for my return," she said. "I cannot step back; I have to attack, attack the serve. I keep pushing myself forward on every point."
Azarenka, who won her fourth career title, will be No. 12 in the world when the rankings are released Monday. Sharapova, who was looking to become the first woman with three titles this year, rises to No. 13.
"She's been in the top 10 and has had some great wins in her career already," Sharapova said. "I started making unforced errors off her returns and she stepped it up, took advantage and started to get on a roll."
Sharapova is taking the week off and returns to make her debut in Cincinnati.
"I don't think I served that smart," she said. "I need a higher percentage of first serves, in general and particularly against her. I'm sure I'll be playing here many more times."