US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka saw off Venus Williams at the Internazionali d’Italia to book a meeting against Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.
Azarenka, who beat Serena Williams in the Flushing Meadows semi-finals, won 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 against the American’s older sister to earn an enticing meeting with Australian Open champion Kenin in the last 32.
In a battle lasting just over two hours, Azarenka had to save a set point before claiming what proved to be a pivotal tie-break, the win avenging a defeat to Venus Williams in the first round of the Top Seed Open last month.
“[A] different surface was definitely challenging, but I feel like I adapted very well,” Azarenka said after winning the last of the first-round matches in Rome.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I knew I wasn’t going to play a perfect game, but it was all about trying to find the right intention of what to do. I think it worked out.
Just over an hour
— wta (@WTA) September 16, 2020
“I felt that this was a great match for me to figure it out, the first match on clay. Venus played a really good match, it was good to see her also adapting to clay, changing and trying different shots.
“It is going to be an interesting match [against Kenin] because Sonya’s been my doubles partner for the last two tournaments and we know each other quite well.
“She’s a great player, she’s obviously been playing exceptional this year. I feel like I’m playing all these players I’ve lost to before, so I’m kind of given an opportunity to redeem myself!”
Number one seed Simona Halep won 6-3 6-4 against Jasmine Paolini and will next face Dayana Yastremska, who emerged triumphant from a three-set battle against Amanda Anisimova.
Second seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova beat fellow Czech Barbora Strycova 6-3 6-3, with Elina Svitolina and Elise Mertens also among those moving into the last 16.
There was no joy for sixth seed Belinda Bencic, though, as she was emphatically knocked out by qualifier Danka Kovinic, who earned a 6-3 6-1 win.