Well hello there… it’s been a long time coming but here comes the 18th installment of the head-to-head between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. A few years ago, the Serena-Vika rivalry looked like becoming the flagship match-up on the WTA tour, but that never fully materialised as Vika endured a miserable and injury-ridden 2015 season. Azarenka’s back to full fitness, but her ranking not so much as she is currently positioned outside of the world’s top 30. This means that she is still on the receiving end of some killer draws. Azarenka beat Venus Williams, 6-3 7-5 in the first round with an excellent display. She dictated the majority of rallies in the first set and then fought hard in the second set when Venus threatened to come back. In the second round, Azarenka defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-3 6-3.
Serena has looked in excellent form so far this week; although she is yet to lose a match this year on the WTA tour, she has looked vulnerable at times particularly early on in tournaments. After she dished out bakery products to Madison Brengle in the first round, Serena beat Sloane Stephens on Monday with a 6-4 6-0 victory. Sloane played reasonably well in the first set, holding all her service games bar the first one. The second set wasn’t so great though as Sloane sunk without trace, winning just nine points. Serena didn’t have to do a great deal but she looked sharp.
Serena leads Vika in the head-to-head, 14-3. Although it’s a one-sided head-to-head, Vika is one of the few players to have given Serena some problems over the past few years. Their last five matches have all been in finals with Azarenka winning twice in Doha and Cincy back in 2013. Their two clay court encounters both saw Serena drop just four games. This match should be a solid marker for Azarenka to see how far she is along the comeback trail. There have been snippets of the form that saw her win the Australian Open, but she’s not quite been able to do it consistently. I’d fancy Azarenka to keep this reasonably tight, but Serena for the win.
Prediction: S.Williams d. Azarenka in 2 tight sets