WTA Madrid: Victoria Azarenka finds her way past Alizé Cornet despite looking vulnerable

Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka faced off against Alizé Cornet for a berth in the round of 16. Cornet had never won against Azarenka in four previous occasions as the Belarusian looked to maintain a perfect record.

Azarenka was cruising at the start until she started struggling with her serve, but hung on to take the first set. It was an even bigger struggle for the Belarusian in the second set as she twisted her ankle midway through, but Cornet could not take the chances that came her way as Azarenka eventually eked out a 6-3, 6-2 straight sets victory.

Azarenka wins the important points despite shaky service games

Both players started the match by holding their service games with ease. Azarenka fired a beauty of a forehand down the line at the end of a great rally to get her first break point in the third game. Though Cornet saved it with some smart play, the Belarusian eventually got the break to take a 2-1 lead. Azarenka looked to be in trouble as she hit a double fault to give Cornet the chance to break back. The fourth seed eventually managed to dig her way out of trouble to maintain her lead at 3-1.

Azarenka plays a sloppy game but hangs on to her lead | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Azarenka plays a sloppy game but hangs on to her lead | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

The Frenchwoman wasn’t doing herself any favors as an error-strewn game gave Azarenka the double break. The Belarusian though struggled with her serve and Cornet’s sweetly executed dropshot presented the Frenchwoman with a double break point opportunity. Azarenka could do nothing as Cornet took one break back for 2-4.

Despite a shaky service game, Azarenka hung on for 5-3. It was then Cornet’s turn to hit a couple of double faults in a poor game handing the Belarusian triple set point. The Frenchwoman fought off all three of them, but Azarenka had another chance with a down the line winner. This time the Belarusian capitalized to grab the first set.

Cornet fails to take her chances despite Azarenka’s struggle with her ankle

Azarenka did not seem to get her serve going, but Cornet was not able to punish her opponent. The Frenchwoman did get her chance in the third game as the Belarusian sent her shot wide. Azarenka did not seem her usual self walking between points without a spring in her steps. She somehow did fend off the Frenchwoman to keep the set going on serve.

Up 40-0 in the fourth game, Cornet looked to close out her game comfortably but in the end handed Azarenka the break with the Belarusian piling the pressure. Azarenka then played one of her better service games of the match to consolidate for 4-1.

Azarenka cruising comfortably | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Azarenka cruising comfortably | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Running to retrieve a dropshot in the seventh game, Azarenka was in some discomfort as she twisted her ankle. It was clearly bothering her as she was not even jumping on her serve facing double break point. Chances went begging for the Frenchwoman though with the Belarusian struggling. Cornet got another opportunity with Azarenka sending her shot long and again she failed to convert before the Belarusian finally held on for 5-2.

Cornet fails to take the countless chances against a struggling Azarenka | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Cornet fails to take the countless chances against a struggling Azarenka | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Though she still seemed in pain, Azarenka ripped out a fiery forehand winner to set up match point on the Frenchwoman’s serve. Cornet could only send her shot into the net as the Belarusian completed the win in straight sets.

Match by the numbers

It was poor serving from both women, who hit 14 double faults shared among them. Azarenka fired 21 winners, two more than Cornet. The Frenchwoman hit more errors, 24 to Azarenka’s 21.

It would have been a different game had Cornet converted more of her eight break opportunities, but she was only able to capitalize once. The Belarusian, on the other hand, broke Cornet’s serve five times.