Miami Open: Garcia fends off Azarenka in straight sets
Caroline Garcia had a tough one on her hands but came out the winner at the Miami Open Thursday night. She worked hard against Victoria Azarenka who made serious comebacks in the match but fell short 6-3, 6-4 on Grandstand Court at the Hard Rock Stadium.
The two met last year in Cincinnati as the surging Frenchwoman downed the 29-year-old in straight sets. Coming into their second chapter, Garcia hasn’t been at her best leaving the door open for both of them to perform well. Azarenka’s big win on center court against Dominika Cibulkova was important for the three-time champion and hoped that she could dictate against Garcia and continue her push to the tournament.
The 26-year-old fired away with the strong forehand to produce a serve to love against the Belorussian. A solid defense and drawing errors from the serve of Azarenka made it 2-0 for the French star. She continued to open the gap earning another comfortable hold that frustrated the former world number one. She put too much power on the forehand that opened the door for Garcia to take a double break and sit with a 5-0 lead and the set within reach.
Azarenka knew that she had to avoid the bagel and with an adjustment to her struggling forehand, the 29-year-old scored a couple of winners that kept Garcia back to win the sixth. It was not the end of the set as problems from Garcia’s first serve produced a second victory for Azarenka. The momentum had changed as the Belorussian dug in and etched another service game to cut deeper into Garcia who was having trouble returning.
She took a moment between games and served up a well-rounded serve that gave her three set points. The 29-year-old refused to go down in a shutout and saved all three set points with the last one coming on a great low crosscourt volley that forced deuce. Two huge winners that forced the error saved Garcia to clinch it in 36 minutes. During the break, she took a conference with her father and coach Louis Paul Garcia who told her to gain back some discipline and control the serve.
With the comeback cut short, Azarenka knew she had to bring up the second serve as she only won 18 percent from it. She made sure to begin the second set with the momentum set her way. It quickly changed with a break to love from Garcia and a great hold in the fourth to widen the gap again. Azarenka closed it with a hold and a break to level up after the sixth to go for a shot at leading for the first time.
Some trouble in the seventh with unforced errors rattling her offense gave Garcia three break points. She managed to save one but the game remained in the hands of the French star for the lead back. The eighth was a very tight fight between the players as Garcia looked to increase the margin with the Belorussian fighting to keep the set level. Azarenka forced deuce that spanned eight breaks. It wasn’t until the 29-year-old’s fourth break point attempt produced the win that ended a near 14-minute battle.
Her efforts took a lot out when it came to serving the ninth that turned into another hotly contest. Garcia slammed the forehand at Azarenka who faltered just enough to hand her opponent the break and serve for the match. She made sure to make it her best serve of the second set giving Azarenka just one point before earning the win on an eight-shot rally that ended wide for the 29-year-old. With some fierce fighting, the win for Garcia was a strong performance that took her 1 hour and 36 minutes to complete.
With the journey moving on for the 26-year-old, she looked to face Julia Goerges in a pivotal third rounder.