Victoria Azarenka finished like a pro in straight sets to move on at the Brisbane International. Her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ysaline Bonaventure at Pat Rafter Arena Wednesday advanced her to the quarterfinals after finishing the match with a stunning second set.
The Belorussian got a surprise when word came of Simona Halep’s withdraw from the tournament. In what was to become the biggest match of the tournament to date turned into what might be an easy run for the former number one. Replacing the top ranked Romanian was Bonaventure who didn’t even qualify but somehow became the lucky loser to replace Halep.
She and Azarenka have never met before but she was guaranteed to gain some experience. The 21 year old Belgian was ranked 170th in the world and made her debut in her first WTA premier event. It would come down to the opening set to determine how well the rookie can play.
Azarenka opened service in the match, which looked shoddy giving Bonaventure points. As soon as a shot from Azarenka made it to the rookie, she responded by winning the break point and took the early lead. Bonaventure impressed on her serve making it across on the first serve before working her movements into the rally. She nearly had a 2-0 margin but the former number one forced deuce. After two lengthy breaks, it was Bonaventure still holding control over Azarenka.
The Belorussian went back to service but the problems still clouded over her as she committed a third double fault. She recovered well and won a game end holding Bonaventure down a point in the third. The fourth had a battle between both ladies as Azarenka showed frustration at how well Bonaventure was answering her shots on the return.
The 21 year old worked hard to gain an edge on Azarenka that sent the players into deuce. After 12 long breaks it was the Belorussian hanging on to the advantage that had things tied at two each. Just when it looked like all the work Azarenka did would help her forward, it instead cost her dearly going down 0-40 on her serve. She climbed back to save herself forcing deuce for the second straight game. She fought through two short breaks before winning it on a solid shot that gave her the lead.
It was short lived as Bonaventure held service, which was the first time of its occurrence in the set. Going six games deep and a dead heat on Azarenka’s hands was not going to be an easy opponent after all. She dug deep in the seventh where her skills slowly grooved into place where she saw things improving.
They did her well enough to go up 5-3 playing for the set in the ninth. After winning the first, she went and got a new racket before resuming her service. She finished it out in 56 minutes to get things back in order.
After a brief battle to start the second set, Azarenka was on fire sending herself with a gap that continued to widen the gap. She took two straight from Bonaventure by completely blanking the youngster on serve and off. The fifth had her fighting back to stay close to Azarenka while she had the skills to do it. Despite all her efforts she fell in Game Six giving the Belorussian the two game margin she most desperately wanted. In the homestretch of the set, Azarenka wasted no time to close things out as she landed winner after winner to get off the court and celebrate a quarterfinal appearance.
The match ended in 1 hour and 27 minutes with Azarenka having an impressive finish in just her second match of the season. She landed 87 percent of the balls on her first serve and clearly handled the pressure on break points winning four of five.
While her opponent was nothing short of a challenge, the unseeded Azarenka goes into the quarterfinal where she’ll meet against U.S. Open finalist Roberta Vinci.