BNP Paribas Open: Azarenka notches win in the opening round
Victoria Azarenka got a strong victory at a much-needed point at the BNP Paribas Open Wednesday night. After going 0-2 down early against Vera Lapko, the 29-year-old went on a long winning streak to win in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 on Stadium One at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It brought a short slide to a halt for the former world number one while extending her young compatriot to a sixth consecutive match loss.
This was the first all-Belarussian meeting between the two and an important moment for both in the opening round. This was Lapko’s debut in the California desert making it key for her to get a tremendous start against the former world number one. Azarenka hasn’t had the best return since giving birth to her son and the season saw her end in disappointing fashion. With Indian Wells standing as one of her best achievements, the 29-year-old wanted nothing more than to be the one standing at the end of the night.
After a solid hold from the 20-year old that set the bar for the match, Azarenka got into trouble committing two double faults that saw her serve easily broken. She got down two games but recovered them earning a break back that followed an improved service hold. She clearly had control back after scoring the double break that quickly turned into dominance. Azarenka had a five-game winning streak over Lapko earning the triple break in the seventh with another fight ending in success.
With the 20-year-old on the edge of going a set down, she found a way to bring back the big hits that affected Azarenka on the return to get to deuce. Getting the AD point against her strong compatriot was a consistent problem as she erred during the final point of the set that ended things in 44 minutes. The world number 48 had a 10 of 16 from the first serve and four of five break points saved in the set that showed her offence was in gear.
She locked down a break on Lapko to begin the second but got into trouble with another double fault on serve. It gave the young Belorussian a chance to break back but Azarenka denied her the opportunity with a strong close of the game. With another double break of Lapko, the 29-year-old gave herself a nine-game winning streak since the short deficit earlier in the match.
It was clearly one-way traffic when Azarenka secured the hold in the fourth that made it ten straight. It was over and done in the fifth when Lapko somehow found a way to score a serve to love. While it prevented her from avoiding the bagel, Azarenka inched her way to lead 5-1 with everything going right.
Lapko etched out another victory but it was Azarenka who at one point had two match points but let them slip away on forehand errors. Deuce was in play for the 20 year old for the second time in the set. She saved four match points before a double fault from Azarenka blew her serve apart.
Just when it looked as if Lapko had a comeback in the works, her returns during serve didn’t fare well. She fell behind giving Azarenka the time to put things away in 1 hour and 23 minutes.
“I’m very happy to be back here and very special to be on this court, Azarenka said to Andrew Krasny after the match. “It was the first time I played against a Belorussian so it was a little sensitive at first but I’m happy that I went through and picked it up after.”
While there were a lot of elements that allowed the former world number one to be at her best, she would get another challenge going against Serena Williams who also faces trouble being successful in her return to the sport.