Thank you for joining me for this match here on VAVEL. I hope you enjoyed it. The recap of this match will be posted shortly by VAVEL's very own Burak Busche. This is Max Gao, signing off. Bye for now.
Final thoughts: Though Rybarikova was not able to compete at the level she would have liked due to her injury, take nothing away from Azarenka who looked impressive throughout, apart from a few blips on serve. The Belarusian was able to get the first strike more often than not and even when she was put on the defensive, she had the resolve to counter everything with power and precision. Overall, it was a very impressive performance from the former world number one, but she will need to serve a lot better in her semi final match against Karolina Pliskova, who possesses arguably one of the greatest serves in the women's game today.
"I'm very happy to be playing and to be improving," she said. "It's a lot of fun for me right now. It's a different stage of my career where I can work hard and enjoy myself. And keep improving. I see the potential and that's exciting."
"I think they key was the start. I started really well and took control and I think in the second set, she wasn't really feeling well," Azarenka said in her on-court post-match interview with Andrew Krasny. "I'm glad I stayed focused on my game."
Azarenka asked Rybarikova if she was okay during the handshake, to which the Slovak responded, "I will be." Clear that Rybarikova really hopes she will be okay in time for the Miami Open which starts next week.
Third ace from Azarenka seals the win for the 2012 champion. The Belarusian defeats Rybarikova in overwhelming style, winning 6-0, 6-0 in an hour and eight minutes.
40-15: Big serve from Azarenka gives her two match points.
30-15: Great return from Rybarikova followed up with a great forehand winner down the line. A case of too little, too late for the Slovak.
30-0: Second ace of the match from Azarenka puts her up 30-0.
15-0: Nice one-two punch from Azarenka to open the game.
Have to feel for Rybarikova though as nothing has gone right in her maiden Premier Mandatory quarter final.
A case of third time lucky as Azarenka breaks to take a commanding 6-0, 5-0 lead. She will serve for the infamous "double bagel" after the change of ends.
30-40: Second break point saved with a big backhand down the line from Rybarikova. Azarenka is understandably frustrated.
15-40: Second ace of the match for Rybarikova saves the first break point.
0-40: Azarenka tracks down a drop shot and puts it away with authority.
0-30: Rybarikova nets a backhand.
0-15: Rybarikova misses a forehand down the line.
Rybarikova hits a backhand long and Azarenka holds for 4-0!
AD-40: Rybarikova overcooks another forehand.
40-40: Another double fault from the Belarusian...
AD-40: Rybarikova overcooks a forehand. Game point, Azarenka to take a 4-0 lead.
40-40: Big serve from Azarenka saves the fourth break point.
40-AD: Sixth double fault from Azarenka... Fourth break point for Rybarikova.
40-40: Three break points saved for Azarenka as Rybarikova nets a backhand on the third.
30-40: Azarenka saves the second with some great depth and a big backhand winner down the line to close it out.
15-40: The first is erased with a big ace down the T from Azarenka -- her first of the match.
0-40: Azarenka nets a backhand and Rybarikova has three chances to get on the board...
0-30: First really loose backhand unforced error from the Belarusian gives Rybarikova another half-chance to get on the board...
0-15: Fifth double fault from Azarenka. She is really going after those second serves.
Wow, Azarenka has been merciless this late afternoon/tonight. She breaks once more to lead 6-0, 3-0. Three games away from a berth in the last four.
15-40: Rybarikova hits a forehand long and it's two break points for Azarenka to break once more. That has unfortunately been a reusable phrase for the majority of this match.
15-30: Rybarikova nets a forehand.
15-15: Another backhand return winner from Azarenka -- she has hit those well tonight.
15-0: Azarenka just misses a forehand return down the line.
Azarenka holds! She leads by a set and 2-0.
AD-40: Wonderfully constructed point from Azarenka ends with an emphatic forehand drive volley winner. She is playing with the aforementioned controlled aggression.
40-40: Great return from the Slovak forces an error out of the Belarusian. Back to deuce.
40-30: Loose forehand unforced error from Rybarikova gives Azarenka a game point.
30-30: Big serve from Azarenka to restore parity.
15-30: Longest point of the match goes the way of Azarenka as Rybarikova just misses a forehand passing shot.
0-30: Fourth double fault from the Belarusian gives Rybarikova half a chance to break and get on the board...
0-15: Third double fault from Azarenka to start the game.
Azarenka breaks for a fourth time! She leads 6-0, 1-0.
15-40: Rybarikova did not do enough with the overhead smash and Azarenka was all over it, and the Slovak ended up missing the mark with a half-volley.
15-30: Azarenka just misses a forehand down the line.
0-30: Azarenka is ZONED IN. She is showing no signs of a letdown as she hits a stunning forehand pass down the line.
0-15: Azarenka picks up right where she left off; hits a glorious forehand cross-court to open the set.
CORRECTION: Azarenka got some ball kids to feed her some balls so she could practice some ground strokes and afterwards, she gave them all a high-five. Great to see.
It appears Rybarikova is having some discomfort with her right thigh. She will take a three-minute medical time out. Meanwhile, Azarenka is practicing some serves ahead of the second set.
The trainer has been called to the court for Rybarikova.
Game, first set, Azarenka. The 2012 champion seals the opening set 6-0 with a big forehand winner down the line set up by a great serve.
40-0: Another great one-two punch from the Belarusian gives her triple set point.
30-0: Rybarikova just nets a backhand slice. Azarenka two points away from a one-set lead.
15-0: Nice one-two punch from Azarenka on the first point.
Rybarikova's coach has been called to the court. It will be interesting to see what the Slovak will change after the sit-down.
Azarenka breaks for a third time! She will serve for a one-set lead after the changeover. 5-0.
40-AD: Great anticipation from Azarenka to put away another impressive forehand volley.
40-40: Rybarikova had the right idea but just missed a cross-court backhand passing shot as it clipped the top of the net.
AD-40: Azarenka nets a backhand.
40-40: Rybarikova can't get over the line as she nets another forehand.
AD-40: Rybarikova hits a big forehand down the line and sneaks up behind it to put away the forehand volley.
40-40: Third double fault from Rybarikova.
AD-40: Beautiful drop shot and volley combination from Rybarikova to give herself a much-needed game point.
40-40: Azarenka nets a forehand; she told herself to move further into the court as she was cutting off an angle on a diagonal but was moving backwards at the same time.
40-AD: Great, aggressive play from the Belarusian to give herself a second opportunity.
40-40: Azarenka just misses a return to erase her first break point.
40-AD: Big serve down the T from Rybarikova set up the point beautifully for the Slovak, but she hits the approach right back to Azarenka and the Belarusian hits an easy forehand pass down the line.
40-40: Whoa! Another big return winner off the second serve from the Belarusian.
40-30: Beautiful drop shot from the Slovak.
30-30: Azarenka just misses a tweener lob! She was hoping for some style points there.
15-30: Rybarikova nets a backhand.
15-15: Now, it's Azarenka who just misses the mark with an inside-out forehand.
0-15: Rybarikova misses the mark with a forehand down the line.
Azarenka holds for 4-0.
40-15: Good injection of pace from the Belarusian to hit a beautiful backhand down the line. She is so balanced as she hits that shot.
30-15: Beautiful drop volley from Azarenka. She is zoned in tonight.
15-15: Forehand forced error off the return from Rybarikova.
0-15: First point of the game goes to the Slovak.
Oof. Rybarikova has only made 32% of her first serves so far in this match, which has allowed Azarenka to dictate the majority of the points behind the second serve.
A tale of two breaks for Azarenka as she breaks for a second time thanks to an emphatic backhand down the line return winner. The Belarusian has been made to work hard so far, but leads 3-0 after 17 minutes of play.
40-AD: Rybarikova nets a forehand volley. Break point number two for Azarenka coming up.
40-40: Good depth from Rybarikova forces a forehand error out of Azarenka.
40-AD: Second double fault from Rybarikova gives Azarenka another break point.
40-40: Rybarikova JUST misses a backhand down the line, which was the right shot but she went for a little bit too much too early in the rally.
AD-40: Azarenka overcooks a forehand and Rybarikova has another game point.
40-40: Great depth from Azarenka to force a backhand error out of Rybarikova -- she is definitely targeting that wing.
AD-40: Great out wide serve from Rybarikova and this time, she makes no mistake, hitting a calm backhand behind Azarenka to give herself another game point.
40-40: Another unforced error from the Slovak pushes the game to deuce. She undoubtedly needs to make more first serves.
40-30: Rybarikova set herself up with a big serve and got a short reply, but overcooks the forehand approach shot.
40-15: Azarenka just misses a return. Late call but no challenge.
30-15: Azarenka overcooks a backhand.
15-15: Rybarikova overcooks a forehand passing shot down the line.
15-0: Sneaky drop shot from Rybarikova is run down by Azarenka, but the Slovak puts away an easy forehand volley.
Azarenka holds for a 2-0 lead.
40-30: Big serve from Azarenka out wide gives her a game point.
30-30: First really long exchange of the match goes to Azarenka as Rybarikova nets a backhand.
15-30: First double fault of the match from the Belarusian.
15-15: Nice, big serve down the T from Azarenka to force an error out of Rybarikova.
0-15: Azarenka completely mishits a backhand to open the game.
Rybarikova double faults and Azarenka breaks to start the match! 1-0, Azarenka.
15-40: Azarenka runs down a drop shot and puts away the backhand with great emphasis. Two break points straight away for the Belarusian.
15-30: Rybarikova misses the mark with an inside-out forehand.
15-15: First ace of the match from Rybarikova. As aforementioned, she will need to serve well tonight.
0-15: Rybarikova nets a forehand on the first point.
Azarenka won the toss and elected to receive, meaning Rybarikova will serve first.
Attention, tennis fans! The players have arrived on the court after a later than expected start due to a long men's doubles match.
For Rybarikova, she will need to get the first strike in order to make inroads into this match as Azarenka is so good at finishing off the point once she gets that first strike. She will also need to serve exceptionally well, which was one of the keys to her victories against the likes of Bencic and Vinci.
One of the main reasons why Azarenka was able to reach number one and hold that position for more than a year was because of her consistency while continuing to be aggressive. She has the unique ability to move her opponents without having to be overwhelmingly aggressive, which is often referred to as controlled aggression. She will need to do that more often than not against a great ball striker like Rybarikova, especially since the Slovak has one of the most underrated serves in the women’s game today.
Azarenka and Rybarikova have met twice before, with the Belarusian winning both meetings, including the most recent one in Cincinnati in 2013.
That victory admittedly did Rybarikova’s confidence a world of good, as she would go on to send seventh seed Belinda Bencic packing a couple days later with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory, but had a much easier time in her fourth round clash with ninth seed Roberta Vinci; the Italian retiring a set and 2-0 down due to a problem with her foot. But take nothing away from the world number 97, who played lights out tennis despite the circumstances.
In her opener, the Slovak staved off the challenge of Laura Robson, who is still looking to find her form nine months after making her return from wrist surgery. In the second round, Rybarikova met 31st seed Daria Gavrilova, who was coming back from an impressive run at the Australian Open that propelled her into the world’s top 32. The Russian-born Australian came out of the gates all guns blazing, barely letting Rybarikova get a foothold in the match. However, the Slovak hung tough, recovering from a set and 4-1 down to eventually oust the Australian 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in a few minutes shy of the two and a half hour mark.
Rybarikova, on the other hand, has had a completely unexpected run to the last eight thus far. Coming into Indian Wells, the Slovak had won just one main draw match and failed to qualify for her two events of the season. Because of this, it is safe to say that no one -- not even the world number 97 herself -- actually expected Rybarikova to make the long-awaited breakthrough she did during the past week in and a half.
In her first big test of the tournament against a seeded player, the Belarusian was forced to dig deep against 26th seed Samantha Stosur after racing through the opening set 6-1. In a tense second set, Stosur showed some of the form that won her her maiden Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in 2011, breaking early and never relinquishing control of the set. As Azarenka struggled to counter the Stosur serve, the Australian levelled the match by taking the second set 6-4. But in the end, the former world number one was able to make the breakthrough from the receiving end, finally claiming the elusive break early in the decider and running away with the match from there. With a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 victory, the Belarusian booked her place in the quarter finals against Magdalena Rybarikova.
After receiving a bye in the first round, the 13th seed opened her campaign against the flat-hitting Zarina Diyas, whom she was able to overcome with minimal fuss in straight sets. A round later, she met Chinese giant killer Zhang Shuai, who had built on her breakthrough performance at the Australian Open to beat former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in a three and a half hour epic a round prior. Hoping to avoid the same fate as Wozniacki, Azarenka has a few difficulties to hold serve early on but one she found her groove, she was able to edge past the Chinese number one 6-4, 6-3 to book her place in the last 16.
February was slated to be a big month for the former world number one as she was supposed to play in the Mexican cities of Acapulco and Monterrey, but pulled out after her first match in the former due to injury, consequently forcing her to withdraw from the latter as well. However, after some rest, Azarenka came to the Californian desert ready and motivated to taste the same success that she enjoyed in 2012 when she won the title without dropping a set.
For the first four rounds, everything was beginning to come together for the Belarusian as she continued her quest for a third major title. In the quarter final, she met Angelique Kerber, a player she had never lost to in six prior meetings. However, this time, it was Kerber who had the last laugh, overcoming the odds to stun Azarenka in straight sets before going on to win the title altogether. That shock defeat in Melbourne was admittedly a tough pill for Azarenka, but she said she would use it as motivation to get even better going forward in her post-match press conference.
After an up and down 2015 season plagued by injury, Victoria Azarenka has made it clear that 2016 will be her year. The former world number one and two-time Australian Open champion kicked off her 2016 season by continuing her love affair with the Australian hard courts, dropping just 17 games en route to a very impressive run to the title at the Brisbane International. In many ways, Azarenka’s incredible start to the year was a major statement of intent for the rest of the WTA, and many considered her a favourite to reign supreme at the Australian Open for a third time, even though she was ranked outside the top 10.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the quarterfinal clash between Victoria Azarenka and Magdalena Rybarikova at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open! My name is Max Gao and I am pleased to be be bringing you point-by-point updates and taking you through this enticing clash here on VAVEL -- one of the fastest-growing sports newspapers in the world. From now until the match, which is scheduled to be played at 5 PM PST, news, updates and match notes will be posted to get you up to speed.