BNP Paribas Open champion Victoria Azarenka began her quest for the Sunshine Double with a two-set win over Puerto Rico's Monica Puig.
WTA Staff

MIAMI, FL, USA - No.13 seed Victoria Azarenka showed all of her grit and determination against an inspired Monica Puig, clinching a tight second set to win, 6-2, 6-4.

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Much like good friend and fellow BNP Paribas Open finalist Serena Williams, Azarenka had things all her own way to start, sprinting out to a 5-0 lead on a over-awed Puig. The Puerto Rican youngster was in no mood to sit back, however, and clawed one of the breaks back and played through most of the second set on level footing.

"With a game like this, she definitely has big potential going forward," Azarenka told Andrew Krasny, complimenting Puig during her on-court interview but adding, "I have to be a little more careful because it was an escape a little bit in the second set."

Keeping her side of the stats sheet even, the two-time Australian Open champion hit 19 winners to 19 unforced, while Puig was ultimately done in by 25 errors and eight double faults. In particular, the Azarenka serve has shown marked improvement to start the 2016 season, and the Belarusian finished the match with five aces - several appearing when she needed them most.

"I tried to be a little bit more aggressive because she started hitting everything on the rise, and I backed up a little bit. I just have to keep moving forward myself."

Up next for Azarenka is qualifier Magda Linette; the Pole advanced after No.18 seed Jelena Jankovic was forced to retire just five points into their second round encounter with a right shoulder injury.

The former No.1 is the highest seed left in her section of the draw, with the bottom half seeds going 7-9 on the day - compared with the top half's 10-6 record on Thursday. Among the casualties were No.17 seed Karolina Pliskova, who dropped a third set tie-break to Timea Babos, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(0), No.25 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who lost to qualifier Kiki Bertens, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, No.29 seed Sabine Lisicki, who squandered a 5-0 final set lead to Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(2), and No.27 seed Kristina Mladenovic, who fell to wildcard Nicole Gibbs, 6-2, 6-4.