Victoria Azarenka put on a terrific show of strength at the Brisbane International Monday night. Her flyby in the second set had all but taken Elena Vesnina out of commission as Azarenka’s cruise to a 6-2, 6-0 straight set victory at Pat Rafter Arena advanced her into familiar territory.
A new season means a great way to make a start for Azarenka who climbed her way back to the WTA rankings last year after returning from an injury that had her out for some time. With her matching against Vesnina, the Belorussian has a firm chance of being successful, as she has won the last six meetings against the Russian. Vesnina made her way through qualifications to get into the season’s first tournament. While she has had struggles with Azarenka, the 29 year old would need a great push in the opening set.
The first game was a huge challenge from Vesnina as the Russian held the game on her end all the way into deuce. After five breaks she stayed aggressive on the serve to win on the advantage and break ahead first. She worked into Azarenka’s pace on her opening service to win on triple break point taking a 2-0 lead.
Azarenka won the break back in the third to end Vesnina’s winning streak and make it a show of strength. She was still finding trouble against her Russian opponent as she had an answer to her shots. Vesnina pressed the fourth game into deuce before watching the Belorussian save it and even the set at two all. By Game Five, the comfort level for Azarenka was coming together as she found her range winning on the break.
What looked as a sure sweep of Game Six turned into frustration as Vesnina clawed her way back to force deuce. She stopped Azarenka’s service mid swing, which led to the comeback. After another drawn out game, the former number one got the win thereby opening the gap on Vesnina. A win in the seventh was all thanks to her opponents unforced errors that put her playing for the opening set.
It wouldn’t come easy as a double fault on set point sent her into a fight on deuce that the Russian was all but ready for. She took some calm and closed it out with a winner near the back of the court to end the set in 48 minutes. While Vesnina outdid the Belorussian with 15 winners, the unforced errors ultimately cost her to sit a set down.
Though Vesnina found herself at a disadvantage, she did not lose the will to fight as she held serve while battling through five breaks of deuce. In the end she was unable to hold her off losing her fifth straight game. A sixth was due to Azarenka’s comfort level returning on her serve that had her opening the gap once more.
Eight consecutive games for Azarenka had her opponent struggling to score points not having enough energy left to challenge her. The pressure continued to build for the Russian as she found herself losing games on a triple break or a love service to Azarenka. The shutouts ended in Game Five where Vesnina pulled out a fight to try and get herself on the board. Despite all the fight on deuce, Azarenka was too much to hold back as she fell down nine consecutive games putting the Belorussian in position to serve for the match. Unforced errors from Vesnina made the work easy for Azarenka as she closed it out in one hour and 27 minutes.
The key to victory came down to the errors on court as each had skill on winners. While Azarenka committed just seven, the Russian tallied nearly 30, which ultimately cost her. Though things looked easy for Azarenka in the opening round, things would get difficult quickly as she’ll face second ranked Simona Halep in the next round.