Elina Svitolina and Victoria Azarenka were among those who claimed third-round spots at the BNP Paribas Open, as seeded players kicked off their Indian Wells campaigns on Friday.
No.4 seed Svitolina of Ukraine moved into the third round of the BNP Paribas Open for the sixth time in the last six editions of the tournament, easing past Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 7-5 on Friday.
In the first meeting between the pair, Svitolina needed just 68 minutes to defeat World No.52 Martincova and pick up her first win of the 2021 fortnight, following her first-round bye.
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World No.7 Svitolina's best Indian Wells performance came in the most recent edition in 2019, when she reached the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Bianca Andreescu.
Against Martincova, Svitolina won 80 percent of her first-service points and broke serve five times during the clash, although she was pushed very hard by the rising Czech in the second set.
Martincova has had a career-best season in 2021, making her first WTA singles final in Prague and rising over 60 spots in the rankings since the start of the year. However, Svitolina, who won her first title of the year in Chicago just before the US Open, was in charge for much of the encounter.
A winning drop volley gave the Ukrainian a break in the opening game of the match, and she swept to a 4-0 lead from there. Martincova picked up her serve but could not stop the first-set steamroll by Svitolina.
Things were trickier in the second set: Svitolina was up a break at 2-1 and 4-3, but each time, Martincova immediately broke back handily, helped by the Svitolina double fault count creeping higher. But Svitolina used an exquisite crosscourt pass to break again for 6-5, and she made no mistake serving out the match, wrapping it up with an ace.
Svitolina will now face No.32 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the third round. Cirstea booked her spot with a 6-2, 6-3 dismissal of Japan's Misaki Doi.
Later on Friday, two-time BNP Paribas Open champion Azarenka of Belarus advanced to the third round via injury retirement from her opponent, Magda Linette of Poland, while Azarenka led 7-5, 3-0.
No.27 seed Azarenka, who won the title in Indian Wells in 2012 and 2016, had fallen in the second round in each of the last two editions, in 2018 and 2019.
Back in that round on Friday, former World No.1 Azarenka had to fight back from a massive first-set deficit before Linette unfortunately had to stop the match early.
Linette was firing on all cylinders as she built a substantial first-set lead with pinpoint hitting. After Azarenka dropped serve with a double fault to give Linette a 4-2 lead, the Polish player fired two consecutive winners to hold for 5-2, putting herself closer to a first Indian Wells third-round showing, in her fourth main-draw appearance.
However, outstanding returns by Azarenka helped her break Linette when the unseeded player served for the set at 5-3, and the two-time titlist eased back on serve. By the end of the 5-5 game, Linette was struggling with her movement, while Azarenka used another deep return to break serve again.
With Azarenka now leading 6-5, Linette had her leg checked during a medical time-out, but Azarenka nevertheless served out the set with ease, winning her fifth straight game. Azarenka made it eight games in a row as she reached 3-0 in the second set, and at that juncture, the injury proved to be too much for Linette to continue.
No.9 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia was another second-round winner, as she swept past Madison Keys of the United States, 6-3, 6-1.
Pavlyuchenkova is currently at her career-high ranking of World No.13 as she aims for one of the final spots at the Akron WTA Finals in Guadalajara. The 2021 Roland Garros finalist is currently No.11 in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals; the Top 8 players qualify.
Pavlyuchenkova blasted past former Top 10 player Keys in just 58 minutes, and she never faced a break point in the match. The Russian's best showing at Indian Wells is a semifinal appearance in her tournament debut back in 2009, when she was just 17 years old.
But another player looking for a spot at the WTA Finals, No.14 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, was upset on Friday. Lucky loser Jasmine Paolini of Italy shocked Mertens, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a grueling two hours and 49 minutes.
Mertens is No.10 in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals, but Paolini has been rising in the 2021 season. At World No.63, Paolini is just two spots shy of her career-high ranking, which she hit last month on the heels of her first WTA singles title in Portoroz.
No.24 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia was one more winner on Friday, as she blasted past Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei, 6-3, 6-0. 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko needed exactly an hour to prevail.