Victoria Azarenka kept her winning ways going at the US Open Wednesday. The two-time finalist of the tournament brought plenty of frustration to Daria Gavrilova who fell under pressure in a 6-1, 6-2 score on Court 17 at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center.
This was the first meeting for the two regulars on the WTA tour and one that they both wished to put behind them. The Australian had never gotten beyond the second round and had a chance to do so if her game got into gear faster than the former world number one. Azarenka had a good start to her tournament warming up on the hard courts to defeat Kuzmova in straight sets. With the scenery changing to an outdoor court, the 29-year-old would hope to keep in line to inch closer to her previous best of making the quarterfinals three years ago.
She made a statement in the opening game forcing deuce with Gavrilova who wasn’t going to let it go easily. After two breaks, the Belorussian got it done and conducted a stronger service game where she answered back on the returns of the Australian. Azarenka made it 3-0 with another battle on deuce with Gavrilova where she nailed down the game-winner to remain in control.
A strong triple break ended the Belorussian’s grip of the set where Gavrilova blanked her with a couple of line drive winners. The 29-year-old responded with a break back in the fifth to keep three games out of the competition. The 24-year-old still had some fight left in her to battle Azarenka but couldn’t keep it going on deuce where the former world number one locked down the AD point in the sixth to play for a shot to go a set up.
Gavrilova hunted down a chance to keep the set moving by playing evenly against Azarenka’s hard groundstrokes. With a service hold the utmost importance, the 24-year-old gave a little too much that gave Azarenka the win ending 37 minutes. The Belorussian had an overall service game that produced 14 of 19 from the first serve and 9 of 14 from the second. They helped her record seven winners while keeping the errors low. It took a toll on Gavrilova’s efforts that had her under 40 per cent with a dozen errors to her name.
After taking a short break off the court, she hoped that it could help her regroup and counter Azarenka’s power. They remained on serve to begin the set and give the Australian some comfort despite the hot conditions on court. By the fifth game, Azarenka had an edge on the Australian that brought a lot of trouble to her game.
Gavrilova couldn’t keep it together with the heat being a factor losing on some key moments during service that sent her into a scream of frustration. She was all out of ideas on how to fight back against the 29-year-old who was well under control. She soon had a 5-2 lead where she ended the day in the eighth to capture the win after 1 hour and 21 minutes. The first serve was locked down well enough to produce positive results on her end while making it a troubling time for her opponent’s who had 26 unforced errors when it was over. She was outscored 61-39 against a player destined to make her mark again.
She would possibly face another big test this year facing either US Open champion Sloane Stephens or Anhelina Kalinina on Friday.Published 29 Aug 2018, 22:37 IST