Mubadala SVC: Azarenka avoids match extension to hold in straight sets over Tan
Victoria Azarenka almost saw a three-setter in her sights but put the match to rest at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic Tuesday. A three-game winning streak in the second set from Harmony Tan gave the Belarusian trouble but held her off in the late stages to win 6-2, 6-4 at Stadium Court on the grounds of San Jose State University.
The two met for the first time with the Belarusian carrying the advantage against the French player. Tan scored her first entry into the main draw with hard-fought victories in qualifications.
Drawing against Azarenka stood as a huge obstacle for the 21-year-old but would try to use her speed and right forehand to get an edge. The former world number one reached the quarterfinals last season but went out due to injury. Her push back into the season this year gave her a strong chance to dictate Tan and walk away with the win.
The 29-year-old fired the returns well after losing the opening point but saw her opponent adjusting quickly to force deuce. After two breaks, the Belarusian locked the win down and consolidated it with a service hold in the second and a double break. Just when it looked to be a potential runaway, Tan rallied back moving into the court for a terrific response to break back in the fourth.
Letting one go got to Azarenka and put the pressure on to secure her third consecutive break over Tan. The French qualifier broke back again in the sixth but was denied another opportunity to hold. The 29 year old coasted with the ball in hand during the eighth securing two set points before closing the first in 36 minutes. Nine winners and four of seven break points won gave Azarenka a serious edge to remain comfortable against the 21 year old who struggled the test.
The second began the former world number one stretching out a winning streak. By the second game, she increased it to four games giving up a point in each win. Saving break points stood as the difficult task for Tan who gave Azarenka too much room for maneuver and suffered a 3-0 deficit.
In a slight shocker, the Belarusian let her serve get away from her completely in the fourth to allow Tan a break to love. In hopes of building upon it, the French star had good court positioning near the net to make the returns for Azarenka impossible. The strategy took a serious shape as the 21 year old won the next eight points in a row to leave the Belarusian stunned.
She attempted to come back in the sixth to avoid the set from leveling but instead saw it get away from her again. The tide of control changed to Tan who blanked Azarenka in the seventh.
The 29 year old had enough of being dictated by a lower ranked opponent and got aggressive with her service that set the score at four all. A key break for Azarenka helped her regain the lead and serve for the match with Tan remaining a tough competitor.
The tenth was a tight one with Tan fighting for every point to the point of forcing deuce. The Belarusian didn’t let it bother her as she reached match point with the second serve line drive that came back high and long to end the day in 1 hour and 14 minutes.
“She had quite an interesting game for our first meeting,” Azarenka said to Andrew Krasny after the match. “I played really well and lost my concentration a little bit. With a player like that you have to stay focused and it got away from me a little bit.” She’ll hope to not let things slip away as she faced Donna Vekic in the second round on Thursday.