Fixture: (12) Victoria Azarenka vs Jessica Pegula
Date: 2 May 2021
Tournament: Mutua Madrid Open 2021
Round: Second round (Round of 32)
Venue: Madrid, Spain
Category: WTA 1000
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €2,614,465
Match timing: Approx. 5 pm local time, 8.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Victoria Azarenka vs Jessica Pegula preview
World No. 15 Victoria Azarenka will take on World No. 33 Jessica Pegula in the second round of the 2021 Madrid Open on Sunday.
The Caja Magica is a happy hunting ground for Azarenka; she finished as the runner-up at the event in both 2011 and 2012. Having said that, the former World No. 1 has not gone past the third round of the 1000-level event since then, and will be looking to make amends this week.
In her Madrid opener on Friday, Azarenka overcame a second-set blip against the dangerous Ekaterina Alexandrova to advance to the second round. The Belarusian was especially clinical in the decider, absolutely destroying Alexandrova's serve en route to registering a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 victory.
It is pertinent to note, however, that Azarenka has struggled with her match fitness in 2021; two of her four campaigns this season having ended in a withdrawal. It remains to be seen whether the Belarusian can keep up with the rigors of a claycourt 1000 event this week.
Jessica Pegula, on her part, has been in good form post the resumption of the tour. The American had a good US Open series in 2020, but that was only the beginning of her late-career surge.
Pegula went on to defeat former Australian Open winner Azarenka herself in Melbourne this year. She then gave a tough fight to eventual finalist Jennifer Brady in the last eight.
The 27-year-old has managed consistent results in the last couple of months too. But this week she is playing on clay for the first time in 2021, having skipped the first few claycourt tournaments to get some rest.
That said, Pegula showed little signs of rust on Friday as she beat Sorana Cirstea in straightforward fashion.
Victoria Azarenka vs Jessica Pegula head-to-head
Jessica Pegula leads Victoria Azarenka by a margin of 1-0 in the head-to-head. Their only encounter came in the first round of this year's Australian Open, where Pegula upset Azarenka in straight sets.
Victoria Azarenka vs Jessica Pegula prediction
Victoria Azarenka has struggled with fitness over the last few seasons, but her performances since the tour resumption suggest she is on an upward trajectory. Azarenka's groundstrokes, especially her backhand, have been in fine working order lately, and she is also moving as well as she ever has.
Jessica Pegula, meanwhile, has climbed up to a career-high ranking of No. 33 on the back of her strong recent results. The American is capable of striking winners as well as mixing up the pace in the exchanges, which is a handy skill on clay.
Azarenka should expect a dogged fight from Pegula, who will be looking to put pressure on the Belarusian from the baseline. But given that she is the more accomplished player overall, Azarenka will likely be able to outlast the American and come up trumps eventually.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to win in three tight sets.