Fixture: (3) Sofia Kenin vs Victoria Azarenka
Date: 17 September 2020
Tournament: Italian Open 2020
Round: Second round (Round of 32)
Venue: Rome, Italy
Category: WTA Premier 5
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €1,771,082
Match timing: Not before 7 pm CEST, 10:30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel / ESPN
Victoria Azarenka vs Sofia Kenin preview
In a blockbuster battle between two Australian Open champions - one former and the other reigning - Victoria Azarenka takes on Sofia Kenin for a third round spot at the Italian Open on Thursday.
Azrenka had a tough opening assignment on Wednesday against seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, who enjoyed a 6-2 head-to-head lead over the Belarusian. Playing her first match on clay just four days after losing the US Open final, which had come on the back of a hectic US hardcourt swing where she won 11 out of 12 encounters, Azarenka was expected to be fatigued and ill-prepared to take on an opponent as formidable as Williams.
But the resurgent Belarusian showed that she was ready for the challenge, coming through a topsy-turvy, high-quality battle which had quite a few momentum shifts. Azarenka broke six times in the match and conceded her own serve four times, but she held firm when it mattered the most.
The fact that she was ultimately able to weather the storm, especially after losing to Williams a month ago, will give Azarenka a tremendous boost of confidence. More importantly, the former French Open semifinalist also seems to have found her feet on clay, which could help her continue her resurgence this summer.
World No. 5 Sofia Kenin, on the other hand, will be playing her first match since losing to Elise Mertens in the Round of 16 at the US Open.
In a sparkling season that gave her the Australian Open crown and a title at Lyon, the 21-year-old seemed primed to continue her sizzling run in New York. However, she fell well short of the expectations, and would now be looking to get back to winning ways on European clay.
With the in-form Azarenka awaiting her first up, it goes without saying that Kenin will be put to a stern test.
Victoria Azarenka vs Sofia Kenin head-to-head
Victoria Azarenka and Sofia Kenin have crossed swords only once on the tour, with Kenin leading the head-to-head 1-0.
The World No. 5 edged the 31-year-old 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in an enthralling quarterfinal match on the hardcourts of Acapulco last year.
Victoria Azarenka vs Sofia Kenin prediction
As evident from their last showdown, this match has all the makings of a classic. Both Victoria Azarenka and Sofia Kenin are consistent hitters from the baseline, and like to move their opponents around with their deep drives.
Kenin would be keen to repeat the Acapulco result, but the times have changed since then. Azarenka looks way more confident now than she was when they met in Mexico; she has been striking the ball with confidence, and her returns look ominous as ever.
The dynamics of clay will also play a role in this match. It won't be easy for either player to rip winners on the red dirt freely, the way they did on hardcourt last week. Their movement and defensive skills will be severely tested - and that's where the former World No. 1's handy experience could come into play.
Going by her recent performances, Azarenka seems well-positioned to win this match - unless fatigue creeps in.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to win in three sets.Published 17 Sep 2020, 01:01 IST