Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns to Maria Sharapova of Russia during their women's singles final at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing. AFP/Mark Ralston
World number one Victoria Azarenka thrashed second seed Maria Sharapova of Russia in straight sets on Sunday to win the $4.8 million China Open.
The Belarusian dispatched Sharapova, ranked number two in the world, 6-3, 6-1, in the final of the Beijing tournament -- the last Premier Mandatory event of the women's calendar.
Azarenka, 23, sped to a 4-0 lead in the first set against the French Open champion, breaking her opponent's serve twice and holding her own on both occasions.
Sharapova, 25, won her first game in the fifth, before Australian Open champion Azarenka continued her 100 percent service game in the sixth.
The Russian responded by upping her serving and return shorts, winning two games in a row, but it was too little too late as Azarenka broke Sharapova in the final game to win the set 6-3 in 43 minutes.
Azarenka continued her momentum into the second set, again winning the first four games with ease.
The tennis star from Belarus then came from behind to hold her serve in a lengthy fifth game to make it 5-0 before Sharapova scraped a game, following an 18-shot rally.
With Azarenka serving for the match Sharapova had two break points at advantage but the Russian was unable to convert.
Azarenka then squandered a match point before finally taking the game and set to record a big win.
It was Azarenka's first China Open title in four attempts and her fifth tournament triumph of the season.
Both finalists had made it to the last two without dropping a set and Azarenka is now 7-4 to the good against Sharapova in head-to-heads.
It was the sixth time the two had met in the final of a tournament and the fourth time this year. Azarenka has now won five and lost only one of their title deciders.
The China Open is one of four compulsory events, ranking behind only the Grand Slams and end-of-season WTA Championships in prestige.
Sharapova, a four-time Grand Slam winner, is yet to win a Premier Mandatory tournament