Vika 2.0 Is Spectacular In Top 5 Win Against Kenin

WASHINGTON, September 18, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

It doesn’t matter that less than a week ago Victoria Azarenka was playing in the final of a major while quarantined in “the bubble” in New York. She’s arrived in Rome and has hit the ground running. New week, new surface, new challenges – no jet lag.

On Thursday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, a WTA Premier 5 tournament, the unseeded and 14th-ranked Azarenka double bageled reigning Australian Open champion and World No. 5 Sofia Kenin, 6-0, 6-0, in 61 minutes to reach the round of 16 – just 10 days before the start of the French Open.

“I think my consistency was the key to the score line,” said Azarenka who has strung together 13 victories in her last 14 results. “I feel like I played really smart tennis today. I was able to use a lot of court, I was able to use a lot of different pace. So, I’m very happy with that. But the key was definitely being able to maintain the level that I started with.”

How one-sided was Azareka’s win over Kenin on Centrale? Here’s a few key statistics worth pondering: She placed 89 percent of her first serves in play and won 74 percent of her first-serve points (23 of 31). Azarenka also served two aces, had no double faults and faced no break points on her serve. She dropped just 10 points on her serve. Meanwhile, Azarenka broke Kenin six times in 11 tries and actually won more points on return than on her serve, 32-25.

Azarenka outpointed Kenin 57-29 and next will play 74th-ranked qualifier Daria Kasatkina on Friday. Kasatkina defeated No. 61 Katerina Siniakova, 6-2, 6-3.

“I think I used my serve smart today,” Azarenka said. “I went for bigger serves when I needed, I went for variety when I needed. It was great, and I wasn’t feeling that great in the warmup. So, it worked out in the match.”

Azarenka finished with 10 winners and four unforced errors while Kenin hit 11 winners but committed 22 unforced errors. It was Azarenka’s first Top 5 win since she beat Karolina Pliskova at Stuttgart last year.

“I was really more focused on what I can do today on the court then on what (Kenin) does well,” Azarenka said. “So, I think that was the difference. I was able to insist on my level and insist on my pace.”

Meanwhile, ninth seed Garbiñe Muguruza came from a set down to defeat American teenager Coco Gauff, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3, to move into the third round at Rome for the fourth time in her career. The 16-year-old Gauff was hampered by 15 double faults during the two hour and 28-minute match on Centrale. She was also broken five times by the 17th-ranked Muguruza. The Spaniard outpointed Gauff 104-100 and will next face No. 7 seed Johanna Konta, who advanced over No. 77 Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-0, 6-4, thanks to hitting 22 winners.

During her virtual press conference, Muguruza broke down her win over Gauff set by set. “It was a tough match,”she said. “The first set was tight; it could have gone either way. I was happy it went my way after a good fight.

“In the second set, I missed a couple of shots. I didn’t take the opportunities I had and she was there the whole time. 

“Then in the third set, it was just a battle. I managed to be solid, to play my game and to take the opportunities I didn’t in the second set.”

Muguruza said she did not treat playing against Gauff any differently than she would any other opponent. “I don’t look at her as a different player,” she said. “She’s here and she’s playing, and it doesn’t matter how old she is.

“She’s a great competitor and she can play very well, as she’s proven to us.”

Also, No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens fell to 50th-ranked Polona Hercog, 6-4, 6-4; No. 8 seed Petra Martic lost to 30th-ranked Yulia Putintseva, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4; No. 12 Marketa Vondrousova advanced over 71st-ranked qualifier Arantxa Rus, 6-3, 6-3; and No. 14 seed Anett Kontaveit was upset by No. 38 Svetlana Kuznetsova, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, in a two-hour and 45-minute marathon.

Only in Rome

New layout for French Open at Roland Garros Stadium

According to the French Open website (rolandgarros.com), “the evolving hygiene situation in the Paris area has prompted the Paris police department to limit the number of spectators who may enter the 12 hectares Roland Garros site on a daily basis to 5,000 during the tournament.

“Since the beginning of the health crisis, the French Tennis Federation has worked hand in hand with the state in order to meet the demands of the ongoing sanitary situation.

“The FFT will therefore assume the responsibility of organizing the tournament with a new lay out. It is important for the sporting, social and economic life of the country that a major event like Roland-Garros can be put on while respecting health imperatives.”

According to French sports daily L’Equipe, instead of 11,500 spectators spread among three show courts per day – Chatrier, Lenglen and Mathieu – it will be 5,000 only and all on the Chatrier main court.

A conversation with Billie Jean King

On the occasion of the Fed Cup being renamed to honor Billie Jean King, New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey sat down with the women’s tennis pioneer.

Roberto Bautista Agut becomes a father

What they’re saying

• After his second-round win over Salvatore Caruso on Wednesday, Rome No. 1 men’s seed Novak Djokovic was asked during his virtual press conference if he recovered his happiness on the tennis court.

Djokovic replied: “I wouldn’t say I recovered happiness, because I’m happy regardless of tennis. You know, I’m happy in life, and I draw my happiness from other things. I don’t draw it only if I win or less [a] tennis match. So that was absolutely fine.”

• Rome No. 1 women’s seed Simona Halep describes her love of playing on Pietrangeli at Foro Italico:

“Yes, it’s beautiful. I’m really happy I could play on that court. It’s sweet without spectators, but still I got the feeling from Pietrangeli which is maybe the most unique court in the world.”

• Victoria Azarenka describes the benefits of practicing meditation:

“It’s just simple quietness. That’s what I have been doing. I have been trying to kind of find the balance of, you know, dealing with some anxiety, uncertainty, to kind of just pause for a second. That’s why I started doing it. 

“I have been going through some difficult personal things, so I have just been trying to find my balance. It’s been helping. 

“I have always been kind of curious about this part but never really committed myself to do it before, and now I have. I’m pretty happy about it.”

• Lorenzo Musetti on beating Stan Wawrinka and his childhood memories of coming to Foro Italico:

“I didn’t expect this win, but I think I deserve it because I played really good tennis and I enjoyed all the points of this match. 

“When I was young, I used to come to see, like, champions like Rafa, Federer, Wawrinka. Also, with my family and my friends here. So, I think it’s a dream come true. …”

What they’re podcasting

Match Point Canada – Five-time US Open champion Jimmy Connors discusses his legendary career.

Tennis.com PodcastCaroline Wozniacki joins hosts Nina Pantic and Irina Falconi to discuss her career and retirement.

What they’re sharing on social media

Simona Halep / A bright future with Billie Jean King Cup

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“Fed Cup is such a special event, and I’m really happy to hear it will have a bright future.” #BillieJeanKingCup

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