Azarenka, Bartoli Survive Tests in Brisbane
Published January 06, 2009 12:00
BRISBANE, Australia - Victoria Azarenka and Marion Bartoli were the sole seeds in action at the Brisbane International on Tuesday - and both were given a run for their money by game opponents. The day's other singles winners were Italian veteran Tathiana Garbin and, in the night match on the Rafter Arena, Lucie Safarova, who beat local heroine Samantha Stosur.
With her explosive style of play, Azarenka is usually quick out of the blocks, winning more than her fair share of 6-0 sets. That being the case, Jarmila Gajdosova's great achievement in their second round match was to keep level-pegging the No.2 seed, so the Belarusian was forced to dig deep to deal with the challenge.
Nonetheless, when Azarenka finally broke the world No.98 for a 6-5 lead, she might have expected to surge ahead. But Gajdosova would not wilt. The break was retrieved, and although Azarenka captured the subsequent tie-break, Gajdosova was first to seize the advantage in the second set. However, Azarenka leveled at 2-2 and, with a series of controversial calls adding to the tension, made the vital breakthrough for 6-5 and duly served out the match.
"She played amazing tennis; I didn't expect her to play that well," Azarenka confessed after her 76(4) 75 win. "I played well but I thought she played some of her best tennis and I want to congratulate her for that. My first match was easy but today I had to fight for a lot of balls and I think that was good for me."
A philosophical Gajdosova, Slovak-born but on track to become an Australian citizen - was able to see the positives following a rousing two-hour performance in front of her adopted home crowd.
"I thought it was a good match, a couple of points in the first set and a couple in the second made the difference," the 21-year-old said. "I had my chances. I thought I played well from the back, I tried to mix it up, made some angles and used some slice which I've probably never used in my life before. There wasn't much in it so it was a tough one to lose, but you live and learn."
Third-seeded Bartoli was kept on court for longer than she'd have liked by Hungarian qualifier Melinda Czink, who used her flat, lefty serve to keep the Frenchwoman off balance early on. But after losing the first set the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up rallied for a 57 63 61 win.
"It was hard because the surface on Show Court 2 is so much faster than centre court - I would say 10-20 km," Bartoli said. "I couldn't see the ball in the first set; usually no-one can ace me as much as she was doing. But as I got used to the conditions I calmed down and made fewer mistakes.
"If you get through these kids of matches it builds confidence," the Frenchwoman added. "Last year I had a really bad season in Australia but this year is already better, I feel a lot fitter so we'll see how it goes."
In another three set encounter, world No.33 Alisa Kleybanova, vanquisher of sixth seed Kaia Kanepi in the first round, was worn down by the heat and resolve of Italian veteran Tathiana Garbin, 46 64 62. But Safarova, once ranked as high as No.22 but currently down at 61, needed just two sets to suppress Stosur, 64 64.
Although both players made about two-thirds of their first serves, Safarova won a superior 91 percent of those points, and never faced a break point during the match.
"I actually thought I played better tonight than I did yesterday, but full credit to Lucie - she played really well," Stosur said. "I found it hard to pick where she was going with her serve, and because she felt confident with that she was able to step in an hit winners on mine."
In first round doubles action, top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber recorded a perfunctory first round win over Severine Brémond and Olga Govortsova, 63 63. Second-seeded Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko, who are preparing to defend their Australian Open title, came from behind to down Monica Niculescu and Kleybanova in a match tie-break. Azarenka and Francesca Schiavone, the No.3 seeds, beat Tatiana Poutchek and Anastasia Rodionova in straight sets, while fourth seeds Sun Tiantian and Yan Zi edged Iveta Benesova and Yaroslava Shvedova.