Victoria Azarenka returned to glory at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden Sunday afternoon. The 26-year-old kept strong against the giant Serena Williams beating her in straight sets 6-2, 6-4 at Stadium One to win the 2016 BNP Paribas Open. It was the second time the Belorussian won the championship and one that improved her season after struggling the last two years.
The American has been on a tear in her return back to the finals of the BNP Paribas Open taking on Azarenka for the 21st time in their careers. The last five wins have all gone Williams’s way for the last two and a quarter years. In the final, Williams was going for her 71st career title with a chance to capture her first of the season.
The 2012 champion of the tournament has also been on a strong run in the desert getting back to the championship final where she has a second title in her view but getting a strong stance against the number one ranked player would be important from the start.
Azarenka took the first win on the break watching Williams fault numerous times on her opening serve. A double fault gave the Belorussian the triple break for the lead. She opened the gap to a pair trying to dictate things and put the pressure on Williams. When the return of service got back to the American, she came out swinging in the third landing every shot to win on a love service.
The lead was still in Azarenka’s hands holding service in the fourth with Williams trailing after five games. Game six became a fight for contention as it went to deuce with Azarenka trying to hold firm and climb closer to a set win. It took three breaks before an unforced error from Williams put Azarenka in control leading 4-2.
When Williams took a step forward, the former number one played the very next game with tremendous energy to stay out front. She got through three breaks on deuce to do just that giving her a chance to win the set. Williams didn’t her get away with an easy win in the ninth as she held Azarenka to a single point while maintaining serve.
When the ball got back into the Belorussian’s hand, she fired away at Williams causing her to slam the ball into the net ended her troubles in the first. Azarenka’s success paid off tremendously as she defeated the American in 42 minutes while playing above 75 percent on points won while going five for five on break points.
The winning streak moved into the second set for Azarenka as she battled Williams when she was on and off her game. In the end, the American’s troubles on court were cost her big. When it came to playing on deuce, Williams struggled to win break points against Azarenka. She played four breaks against the current leader but once again put the ball into the net giving the Belorussian another 2-0 margin.
Azarenka increased it to three as it was looking to be another rough outing for Williams who couldn’t get things going. It led to Williams’s frustration smashing her racket to the surface. She smashed a brand new racket during the changeover that cost her a point from umpire Marjia Cicak. With Azarenka leading 15-0 before the game, she took it in stride and flew to a sixth win in a row over the number one ranked player.
Williams ended the streak winning a game that sent her supporting fans into an applause trying to help her get back into the set. It didn’t work as Azarenka won Game Six putting her in position for a second title. On William’s serve, she saved herself for a time winning a key game, but had to stay alive against Azarenka on serve for the championship. Double faults killed the opportunity for Azarenka having to keep playing in the set with Williams making a slow comeback.
She won the ninth game dominating on the serve that Azarenka tried to remedy. She worked against the big returns of the American to climb back on deuce and won the advantage in stunning fashion. It took her 1 hour and 28 minutes and at one point nearly looked as if it would go three sets. It didn’t as she kept her actions high on te service winning 86 percent of shots on the first serve and 11 of 12 break points won through the two sets.
With this being Azarenka’s second title of the season, its likely to see more coming as she and the rest of the WTA prepare for the Miami Open which begins Tuesday morning.