Having withdrawn from Madrid in the round of 16 due to a back injury, Victoria Azarenka was looking to properly start her clay season on the right foot. She was up against Irina-Camelia Begu, who herself was having a fine start having reached the quarterfinals in Madrid. Azarenka had the advantage going into this one having not lost on five occasions.
However, it was Begu who looked the steadier of the two taking the first set off Azarenka who had not dropped a set in her last three matches. The Belarusian's struggles on the dirt continued in the second set as Begu went on to record an impressive 6-3, 6-2 victory over the fourth seed and 2013 finalist.
Begu shrugs off an early break to take the first set comfortably
It was a nervy start by the Romanian, allowing Azarenka to break at the first opportunity. However, Begu came firing back in the next game, finding return winners and unsettling the Belarusian to break back. The Romanian had settled into the match well as she held her serve with ease for 2-1.
It wasn’t looking good for the Belarusian though who particularly struggled whenever she was pulled wide by Begu. Her serve was not going her way as well as she handed a triple break point to the Romanian before gifting the break with an unfortunate double fault. Begu comfortably built on her lead for a 4-1 advantage.
Azarenka finally held her own service game to love to hang on in the set for 2-4. For her part, Begu was serving well and not giving Azarenka much chance on the returns, eventually closing out the first set 6-3.
Azarenka fades away as Begu grows stronger
Begu had seemed to figure out that Azarenka was not moving well as she kept pulling the Belarusian wide and earned the reward to go up a break at the start of the second set. The Romanian consolidated the break with authority to lead 2-0.
Azarenka was not out of it though as she was still able to find winners to get on the board for 1-2 and kept herself in the match. She then presented Begu with her biggest test yet getting the luck of the net cord to set up break point. Once again, the Belarusian was stretched wide and her shot went long as the Romanian snuffed out the chance. Begu stood firm despite being pushed by Azarenka to deny the Belarusian to go 3-1 up.
Azarenka's woes continued on the other hand, as she found herself down a double break even after fighting back to 30-30 from being 0-30 down in the fourth game. Begu was firmly in the driver's seat by now, closing out her game for a 5-1 lead. Azarenka closed the gap to 2-5 but there was nothing more the fourth seed could do as she bowed out in straight sets to the Romanian.
Though Azarenka fired a decent 15 winners, Begu was leading the charge with an impressive 27 winners. The Romanian also kept it clean with 15 unforced errors to the Belarusian's 22.
Begu was solid behind her serve, hammering eight aces and facing just a couple of break points throughout the match, broken just the once right at the beginning. The fourth seed was under more pressure having to deal with six break points and was eventually broken four times.