Victoria Azarenka returned to tennis with a strong showing at the Rogers Cup Tuesday. Her 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Elina Svitolina on centre court had signs of energy from the Belorussian and plenty of fatigue from the Ukrainian.
The Belorussian made her return to tennis after taking a long break since her quarterfinals loss at Wimbledon. While she still remains adamant about returning to the top of the WTA, the reality continues to sit as she like her opponent sit at the bottom. Svitolina had been showing tremendous promise in her game that had her playing for a finals spot at the Bank of the West Classic.
Though she lost that one to Angelique Kerber, the 20-year-old Ukrainian has picked up a lot of time on court as well as the experience. Both ladies have met just once earlier this season when Azarenka took the fight to Svitolina rushing to a victory in the third set allowing her just one game. With the 26 year old ready to prep for the US Open at the end of the month her first step will be to put down the young up and comer who can track down shots from far off.
Azarenka blasted away at the Ukrainian taking the first pair of games in near sweeps or better. Her six-foot figure helped with landing her shots high and fast against Svitolina to get out ahead. Svitolina didn’t let her get too far as she took the third game to get on the board.
Azarenka increased her lead on Svitolina winning her second break point in the set to go up 3-1. Her power shots seemed to be too much for the Ukrainian to handle on the long rallies. The Belorussian handled the competition well on deuce where on the last two occasions, she was able to withstand the youngster and still hold the break as well as her serve to take a 5-1 lead and play for the set.
Azarenka responded well to Svitolina’s shot as she maintained the pressure to watch the Ukrainian fall apart and lose on an unforced error into the net. It was in the books in 34 minutes where Azarenka landed 13 of 16 and three breaks points.
During the break, Svitolina had the emotions running in her face as her coach Ian Hughes was trying to ease her up before the next set. The 20 year old’s serve percentage was at 42 percent against Azarenka as fatigue also played a role in her level of competition.
There was no time for rest as the second set got underway with a surprise at the start. Azarenka made two double faults that inevitably gave Svitolina the win in the first game. She took the next game holding Azarenka to a point to grow her own lead in the set. The Belorussian made a slight change in her action on court where she was able to hold serve landing her first ace on Svitolina in the match taking the game from her.
Svitolina earned a third victory in the set but watched her lead completely disappear as Azarenka had the strength to comeback and even up through six. Azarenka began to walk away as she continued to increase her winning streak over the 20 year winning her fourth straight to hold at 5-3 serving for the match. Svitolina knew that she had one chance to stay in the set or lose it all. In an attempt to put it all on the line, Svitolina fired had to break the serve and win the double break point to come within a game of forcing the set to its limit.
Svitolina served up shots to Azarenka but the problem came when she redirected the ball causing the Ukrainian to play defense. It became the ultimate demise as the intensity of Azarenka gave her the victory in 1 hour and 17 minutes. It was clear that the loss for Svitolina was unfortunate yet a blessing as she has been on court non stop. With the rest of the week before the next tournament, the Ukrainian can focus on her success as well as her energy level and where it needs to be prior to her future match.
As for Azarenka, she finished her serve at 73 percent committing just two double faults in the match. Her 28 winners helped contribute to her victory over Svitolina that now sets her up for a match against Petra Kvitova in the second round.
With the time off Azarenka will have to step up her skills in order to have a strong showing against the tough Czech. “Ill just focus on my game, go out and give it my all and well see what happens,” Azarenka said during her on court interview with Sportsnet. With a 23-9 record this year in tournaments, the 21st ranked player will look on to winning as the last Grand Slam gets closer with each passing day.