GNP Seguros Open: Azarenka seals up first straight sets win in Monterrey
Victoria Azarenka made a good start to the GNP Seguros Abierto Monterrey on Tuesday. In what was her first appearance at the tournament, the 29 year old held back qualifier Miyu Kato in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 on Cancha Central at Club Sonoma. It was the first win in over two weeks for the tennis superstar and one that she’ll try to add onto.
The season has been a struggle for the Belorussian who had yet to dig in deep to any of the tournaments that she participated in. With more than a week since her loss in Miami, Azarenka hoped to make the last tournament a hard a good one. The 24-year-old Japanese player got into the draw after coming up short last year. She won three in a row during qualifications in her first three of the year. With a major challenge against a former world number one, Kato would have to break ahead fast and keep her back.
Azarenka had an agenda and broke Kato before struggling on serve in the second. With some errors on the forehand, she began to implement a movement into the court to secure deuce and score the winner needed to take a 2-0 lead. Kato got on the board with a serve to love followed by a converted break as the forehand got Azarenka into trouble. She tried to regroup in the fifth but the problem remained aside from breaking back. The need for her backhand to help out was seen in the sixth but she had let Kato get into gear to stay within reach.
After the ninth, Kato had found ways of containing serve while Azarenka struggled with three double faults already recorded. Despite the number of errors, the 29-year-old got to set point to hold Kato off and end the first in 40 minutes. The Belorussian had 13 unforced errors that took its toll on the pace that she didn’t want but having a stronger offence was key with her three aces coming up big in the late stages.
Knowing that she was going to have to produce more of it, she answered Kato’s second serve to love in the match and gave it big to her in the second. A force to get the break woke up the 24-year-old as she dug in to force deuce on serve. She stopped three break point opportunities but a fourth from Azarenka was too much for her to deal with. The fifth seed went on to take the next pair of games and a double break in hand to go up 4-1. She caused Kato to lose focus making it very easy for her to shutout the 24-year-old in the sixth.
Playing for the match, Azarenka got behind with Kato having a strong service game that had ahead in the seventh. The 24-year-old’s cross-courts were enough to stay alive but had to face the fifth seed on serve. The Belorussian had one last challenge in the seventh but despite giving Kato some points, she managed to secure the win in 1 hour and 14 minutes.
“It was a pretty difficult match,” Azarenka said. “I hadn't played here on centre court yet so it was a little bit of an adjustment for me. With not playing Kato and the weather conditions as they were, the first round continues to not be easy. She’ll hope to take the good moments on the court and build upon them taking on Zarina Diyas in the second round.