ISTANBUL, Turkey - Victoria Azarenka put a dry fall season behind her on Tuesday, battling past Sara Errani in a tight two-setter in the first match of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul.
After reaching the finals of the US Open, Azarenka went on to lose her opening matches at her only two fall tournaments - Tokyo (to Venus Williams) and Beijing (to Andrea Petkovic). And if you lump in the loss to Serena Williams in that US Open final, she came to Istanbul on a three-match losing streak.
Errani seemed determined to keep that pattern going - with a barrage of deep groundstrokes, perfect drop shots and pinpoint lobs, she built a 5-2 lead in the first set. But maybe an 0-19 career record against Top 3 players crept into the Italian's mind at that point, as Azarenka clawed her way back and eventually snuck out the first set - which ended up lasting an hour and 28 minutes - in a tie-break.
The No.2-seeded Azarenka would then completely take over in the second set, blasting 20 winners to just two unforced errors - yes, just two - closing out the No.6-seeded Errani in straight sets, 76(4) 62.
The match numbers were strong for Errani - she had a +4 differential of winners to unforced errors, 28 to 24. But after the slow start Azarenka was too good, finishing with a +24 differential, 51 to 27.
"I think it's pretty normal to have a slow start - I hadn't played in a while, and to go out after a break like that against a Top 10 player is not easy," Azarenka said. "Sara's a great fighter. She was fighting for every ball and playing some great tennis. I was also missing too much, just some close misses.
"But all of the matches will be tough here, so it's important to just find your rhythm. I turned it around. Sara makes you play every ball and brings every ball back, so it's important to step up and close out the points. I did a good job of that today against her - but the accuracy could be a little better."
Azarenka's penchant for frontrunning showed big time in the second set - she is now 99-1 after winning the first set since the start of 2012, the only loss coming earlier this year in Madrid, where she lost to Ekaterina Makarova, 16 62 63 (though that was just her second match back after two months injured).