Victoria Azarenka powers her way to quarter-finals at San Jose
Victoria Azarenka earned a more positive outcome at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Wednesday night. The 29-year-old earned a late birthday present with a full dictation of skills on court that devastated Anna Blinkova in straight sets 6-1, 6-0 on Stadium Court at the San Jose State University Tennis Center. It was the first time since she won the title in 2010 that she returned to the quarter-finals of the tournament.
The former world number one had a challenging start to her opening round against Katerina Bondarenko. The Belorusian was forced into playing three sets where she was able to hold back the Ukrainian in the late stages of the decider.
With the withdrawal of Garbine Muguruza, whom she would have faced, Azarenka faced the 19-year-old Russian, who earned the lucky loser position after losing in the qualifiers. She started the set with a good push of offense, but Blinkova settled in just enough to make it difficult for the Belarusian.
In response, the former number one rallied to break the 19-year-old in the second. With two in hand, Azarenka showed her strengths and made it 3-0, holding Blinkova to a single point.
She rallied back after falling on serve to force a deuce, but two critical errors on the forehand resulted in a runaway for the former world number one. A key break for the young Russian helped her avoid a bagel, landing line drive winners that earned her an applause from the crowd.
The breaks continued with Azarenka securing the third straight that put her in a position to go for the set. Problems with the serve came back to the Belarusian, who had to fight back to deuce to keep the opportunity alive.
After two breaks, the 29-year-old held the AD point and landed a winner down the line to end the set in 33 minutes. Despite the issues, Azarenka had a better outcome with her serve while Blinkova's second serve let her down. Facing the Belarusian's return game took a massive toll that she would have to find a remedy for going into the second.
She didn’t get one as Azarenka dictated the path of the set to break the 19-year-old. She consolidated the break with a hold in the second before achieving another 3-0 on a fourth double fault.
Blinkova felt the pressure as the 2010 champion produced terrific first serves to hold her serve to love. The fifth saw moments where the 19-year-old had a good response to rallying with Azarenka, but fell under the pressure of deuce, where, after two breaks and a sixth double fault, Blinkova found herself on the edge of defeat. The 29-year-old did everything right to quickly earn three match points that put the finishing touch to her night in 57 minutes.
"I felt pretty satisfied with the match. Today was obviously more one-sided and I played better but it's still a win and I felt kind of the same as I did Monday," Azarenka said during her press conference.
With a clear improvement of strength, she will try and dial it back in facing American Danielle Collins in Friday's quarter-finals.