After clinching the Western & Southern Open title and reaching the US Open final, Victoria Azarenka is successfully transferring to European clay, surviving a tough first-round match against Venus Williams to progress at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
In the first set, the world No.70 Williams twice recovered from a break down, saved a set point at 4-5 to draw even and then broke Azarenka’s serve to lead for the first time and serve for the set. The 14th-ranked Azarenka managed to rebreak and force a tiebreak in which Williams came back from 2-5, but hit two long forehands and the Belarusian converted her third set point after 68 minutes of play.
In the second set it was again Williams who was forced to catch up. Azarenka established a 4-1 lead and even though Williams got one break back, Azarenka won two games in a row to earn a 7-6(7) 6-2 victory, her third in nine career meetings with the older Williams sister.
Azarenka’s second-round opponent will be yet another Grand Slam champion — American Sofia Kenin.