It has been a rough year for Azarenka. Coming into 2014 as a clear World No.2 behind Serena Williams, and after making a strong start to the season in Australia - finals of Brisbane, quarterfinals at the Australian Open - Azarenka played just one match in the next four and a half months due to a foot injury. But she's one of the hardest workers out there, and she did all the rehab, all the training and everything that comes with it, and in the end, Eastbourne was chosen as her comeback event.
The Turning Point
She looked very strong indeed early on - after Giorgi went up 4-2 in the first set, Azarenka stormed back with four games in a row of her own, sneaking out the first set of her comeback, 6-4.
But that's when the match turned completely. With winners flowing from both wings and from the front and back of the court alike, Giorgi took total control, storming out to a 5-0 lead in the second set - and eventually taking that set, 6-3. The Italian then moved out to a 5-3 lead in the third set.
Azarenka made one last stand, winning a pair of love games to turn that 5-3 lead into 5-all, but she then got broken after a long, dramatic service game, despite having seven game points in the game. Now up 6-5, Giorgi had her mojo again. She served it out and beat the No.4 seed, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
By The Numbers
Azarenka's numbers on the match were very clean - 25 winners to 26 unforced errors, not so bad for a player playing just their second match since Australia. But Giorgi was aggressive to the max, blasting 53 winners to 51 unforced errors, and if you take out her dubious serving numbers - two aces to a whopping 17 double faults - she was actually +17 in everything else (51 winners to 34 unforced).
Giorgi was also 15 for 17 at net - a great statistic on the slick grass courts.
The Italian's victory over the World No.8 was the fifth Top 10 win of her career. She scored one in 2012 (No.7 Sara Errani in Beijing), one in 2013 (No.8 Caroline Wozniacki at the US Open) and two earlier this year (No.5 Maria Sharapova at Indian Wells and No.10 Dominika Cibulkova at Rome).
"It was a great match. I really enjoyed it," the soft-spoken Giorgi said afterwards. "Today I was just focused on my game like always. I just tried to play aggressively out there, and that's all.
"I was just thinking about my game."
Giorgi will play British wildcard Johanna Konta, an Eastbourne native, who beat Swiss qualifier and WTA Rising Star Belinda Bencic earlier in the day. Konta beat Giorgi in their only previous meeting, though it was under much different circumstances - an ITF Women's Circuit event on clay in 2012.