ROME, Italy - US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka put on a dominant display on Campo Centrale to stun the No.3 seed Sofia Kenin in straight sets and move into the third round at the Internazionale BNL d’Italia.
Azarenka had to make a quick turnaround after reaching the US Open final less than a week ago, transitioning from hardcourts to clay and battling through jet lag as she defeated Venus Williams in straight sets yesterday.
She showed no signs of slowing down against Kenin, the reigning Australian Open champion. The former World No.1 Azarenka didn’t drop a single game and faced no break points en route to an emphatic 6-0, 6-0 victory in 61 minutes.
“I think my consistency was the key to the scoreline,” Azarenka told press after the victory. “I feel like I played really smart tennis today: I was able to use a lot of court, I was able to use a lot of different pace. So I’m very happy with that. But the key was definitely being able to maintain the level that I started with.”
Azarenka recorded just one unforced error in a 22-minute opening set against Kenin, who had no response to the Belarusian’s relentless barrage. She attacked the returns, redirecting the ball at will and keeping Kenin, who is still seeking her first WTA-level quarterfinal on clay, on the run.
Azarenka reeled off the first six games of the match in dominant fashion, hitting 93% of first serves and recording only one unforced error - and allowing Kenin to win just eight points en route to a 6-0 set.
“I think I used my serve smart today,” Azarenka said. “I went for bigger serves when I needed, I went for variety when I needed. It was great, and I wasn’t feeling that great in the warmup, so it worked out in the match.”
But the Australian Open champion showed her grit in the second set. Determined to make every game a battle, Kenin raised her level to push Azarenka in two marathon games. She finally reached deuce on Azarenka’s serve and saved three break points of her own - but after battling for 15 minutes she still had nothing to show for her efforts as Azarenka consolidated her lead to 2-0.
Azarenka kept Kenin’s serve under pressure, and the American eventually surrendered her service game again as Azarenka continued to attack her more vulnerable second deliveries. Kenin never found an inroad into the Belarusian’s game, and she never faced break point as she served out a confident victory, 6-0, 6-0 in almost an hour.
“I was really more focused on what I can do today on the court, than on what she does well,” Azarenka said. “So I think that was the difference, I was able to insist on my level and insist on my pace.”
Azarenka tallied a tidy 10 winners and just four unforced errors in total across two nearly-flawless sets of tennis, outpacing Kenin’s 11 winners and 22 unforced errors as she rolled to her first Top 5 victory since defeating Karolina Pliskova last year in Stuttgart.
“I feel that I’m able to manage my ‘arsenal’ of the shots that I have, better,” she reflected. “I’ve always been able to generate different shots, play with different spins and find different angles - but I don’t think I was confident that I was able to do that in a match.
“I’m just not afraid to try things that I know I can do well, and then see what happens… I’ve always been eager to learn, to improve and develop - and that’s important to go up another level, and I feel like I have with my game and my tactics.”
Qualifier Daria Kasatkina awaits in the next round as Azarenka looks to reach back-to-back quarterfinals in Rome. The Russian took down Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 6-3 earlier in the day to advance.