Indian Wells: Serena Williams ousts Azarenka to progress

Williams, seeded 10th in her first tournament since a quarterfinal exit at the Australian Open, needed two hours and seven minutes to get Azarenka 7-5, 6-3.

Serena Williamscelebrates her victory against Victoria Azarenka at BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Friday.   -  AFP

 

Serena Williams defeated Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-3 in a battle of former world number ones on Friday to reach the second round at Indian Wells.

Williams, seeded 10th in her first tournament since a quarterfinal exit at the Australian Open, needed two hours and seven minutes to get past her longtime rival.

She took her record against Azarenka to 18-4, although the Belarusian, now ranked 48th in the world, had triumphed in their most recent prior meeting in the 2016 final on the same Indian Wells stadium court.

“It's hard to play somebody you're so close to,” Williams said. “It's also invigorating.”

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Williams advanced to a third-round meeting with another former World No. 1, Spain's Garbine Muguruza, who beat American Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-3.

Meanwhile, World number two Simona Halep cruised into the third round at Indian Wells with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Barbora Strycova.

Halep, who lifted the Indian Wells WTA trophy in 2015, improved to 5-0 against the Czech veteran, who has never taken a set from the Romanian.

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Halep belted 18 winners and converted six of 11 reak point chances as she set up a third-round meeting with Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Kozlova, a 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 winner over 31st-seeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.

Halep and Strycova traded four breaks of serve as the second set moved to 4-4.

After Halep held for a 5-4 lead she broke Strycova in the final game, pocketing the win on her second match point.