It was a case of fifth time lucky for Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in the Brisbane International women’s final on Saturday night.
The aggressive second seed finally snapped up her maiden WTA title in her fifth career final by brushing aside former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli of France 6-3 6-1.
Third seed Bartoli, 24, was the feel-good story of the tournament after receiving an armchair ride into the decider following former world No.1 Amelie Mauresmo’s withdrawal from their semifinal due to injury.
For the first half of last year, Bartoli was bed-ridden between tournaments as she struggled to overcome mononucleosis.
Her ranking dropped from the top 10 down to No.17, but looked to be showing something near her career-best form at Pat Rafter Arena.
However, nothing prepared her for world No.16 Azarenka’s assault at Pat Rafter Arena.
The 19 year old appeared hell-bent on finally bagging her first career title after four finals including last year’s Gold Coast women’s event, which merged with the Adelaide men’s tournament to create the Brisbane International.
In the end, the teenager went through the tournament without dropping a set.
Azarenka broke twice to lead 4-1 in the first set before Bartoli showed some fight to break back in the sixth game.
But the fiery Belarusian won six straight games to close out the first set 6-3 and take a commanding 4-0 lead in the second.
While Azarenka was relentless, Bartoli was also her own worst enemy.
Serving while down 5-3 in the first set, Bartoli committed the cardinal sin of double-faulting not once but twice to hand the first set to Azarenka on a platter in 41 minutes.
The second set was a whirlwind affair with Azarenka closing it out in just 29 minutes.
Azarenka extended her career record over her more experienced opponent to 2-0.
Azarenka – who broke into the world top 20 for the first time in 2008 – is now well placed to improve on her best Grand Slam finish at this month’s Australian Open.
In 2008, Azarenka made the third round in the Australian and US Open as well as Wimbledon and equalled a career best finish by reaching the final 16 at Roland Garros.
“Everybody says the third time’s the charm but for me it is the fifth one – I’m just glad I got it,” Azarenka laughed.
Despite her win-less finals record leading into the match, Azarenka said there were no nerves before hitting the court on Saturday night.
“I just go out and play no matter what happens. That probably helped me. It was like playing a regular match – that is what helped me finish it so quickly.”
But Azarenka would not be drawn on her Australian Open chances.
“I’ve improved on pretty much everything I could in the pre-season but there is still plenty of room for improvement – I just keep going and play the best I can,” she said.
However, both Azarenka and Bartoli pinpointed the secret behind her new-found success – the Belarussian’s coach Antonio Van Grichen.
His influence was obvious in Azarenka’s quarterfinal against Czech Lucie Safarova earlier this week.
She called him out for a consultation after being reduced to 5-1 in the first set and went on to win the match 7-6 6-4.
“I have had a lot of help from my coach,” Azarenka said.
Bartoli added: “She has a great coach with her.
“I think he has made her improve a lot, especially tactically.
“Now she uses her weapons very well, I think she has a great future.”
Meanwhile, a finally fit-again Bartoli was encouraged by her tournament performance despite the anti-climactic ending.
“This is the first time (so early in the season) that I feel great,” she said.
“I am just pleased about that.
“I want to stay positive. If I can carry on the same toward the Aussie Open that will be great.”
Both Bartoli and Azarenka will contest next week’s Sydney International tournament before the year’s opening grand slam.
In the women’s doubles final, Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King conjured a come-from-behind win to take the title.
The German and American pair lost the first set to Polish duo Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska 6-3 but turned the tables to take the second set 7-5. In the match tiebreaker they steadied and held their nerve where their opposition didn’t and claimed it 10-5.
“I feel great, I think Vania too,” gushed Groenefeld after the match. “We’re very happy to come back and be on top in the end.”
“It’s lovely to win a tournament but to come back and win a tournament is an even better feeling,” added King.
Some helpful advice from their coach when they were down 3-4 in the second set helped Groenefeld and King to turn the game in their favour.
Despite their success in Brisbane the pair will not be continuing what has been a successful partnership as Gronefeld has committed to play tournaments with Patty Schnyder.
Women’s singles final
 Victoria Azarenka d Marion Bartoli 6-3 6-1
Women’s doubles final
Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Vania King (GER/USA) d Klaudia Jans/Alicja Rosolska 3-6 7-5 [10-5]
Men’s singles semifinal
 Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 6-2 6-1
 Radek Stepanek d  Richard Gasquet 2-6 6-2 6-4
Men’s doubles semifinal
Fernando Verdasco/Mischa Zverev (ESP/GER) d Carsten Ball/Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-4 6-2
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/Marc Gicquel (FRA) d Travis Parrott/Filip Polasek (USA/SVK) 7-5 6-7(4) [10-7]