Azarenka edges past Kvitova; Halep eliminated in Indian Wells

World No. 32 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus got the better of world No. 11 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in a tight, 7-5, 6-4, match to reach the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open on Monday (IST).

In the latest chapter of a rivalry that dates back more than a decade, the two major champions traded breaks three times in the opening set, and Azarenka won the last three games to take it — saving three break points to stave off a first-set tiebreak.

The second set proved much the same, as Kvitova won four straight games from 3-1 down to take the lead before Azarenka again won a trio of games to seal victory.

“It was really exhausting year. Since COVID started, it’s pretty exhausting I think for everybody. My body is just not really handling perfectly. That’s why I’m ending right now, to take some extra weeks to recover my body, to heal everything what is there,” said Kvitova, following her last match of the season.

“Overall the season, well, I definitely had better seasons than this one. I had a title, which is always the highlight of the season. I played some incredible matches, I would say. I still have the fire inside me, which is very important for me as well, even in this age. I mean, without the fire I think I couldn’t play anymore, but it’s there so that’s nice,” Kvitova told wtatennis.com.

Azarenka and Kvitova were playing for the ninth time overall, but just the third time in the past decade. Azarenka secured her fourth win in the all-time head-to-head, her second on hard courts, and first since Toronto in 2015.

“I think it was a good match. It was very close, which I knew it was going to be, going to be kind of hard to catch rhythm. It was a lot of firsts, whoever gets the opportunity to kind of move the ball first, be aggressive. I wasn’t expecting too many big rallies,” Azarenka said.

“I thought it was good. I’m happy with the way I closed out the both sets. I think those were important moments. I took those opportunities into my own hands.

“It was important to just stay there, really take my opportunities, not to let her. If she gets in the groove in couple points, not to kind of let her extend that streak, if you want to call it that.

“I was trying to still create opportunities for myself, be more aggressive, and honestly just believing also that what I’m doing is right and see how I can execute that. So intention was good. Execution followed after.”

Azarenka, the two-time major-winner, next faces fellow Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich for a place in the last eight. Azarenka and Sasnovich have never played.

Sasnovich of Belarus continued her stellar run at the BNP Paribas Open, ousting 2015 Indian Wells champion and No.11 seed Simona Halep of Romania, 7-5, 6-4, to reach the round of 16.

World No.100 Sasnovich has now notched consecutive straight-set wins over Grand Slam champions and top-25 players. In the second round, Sasnovich eliminated reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, and now she has followed up with her 98-minute victory over two-time major titlist Halep.

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