MONTERREY, Mexico -- Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus continued to win in her debut showing at the Abierto GNP Seguros, as she defeated Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, 6-3, 6-2 on Thursday night to advance into the quarterfinals.
"It was a pretty solid match, with a good start for me, obviously," Azarenka told the media, after her win. "[Diyas is] a really tricky opponent because she plays really flat, and takes the ball early, but I was able to manage my serve really well today and take my opportunities."
No.5 seed Azarenka had defeated Diyas in two sets en route to her BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in 2016, and the Belarusian picked up a second straight-set win over the 107th-ranked Kazakh in Monterrey after 67 minutes of play.
Azarenka had 22 winners to just 16 unforced errors in the match, and broke the Diyas serve six times out of her nine break points. The 12 winners from Diyas were undone by 18 unforced errors, including three double faults.
World No.67 Azarenka will now take on No.3 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the elite eight. Pavlyuchenkova has mastered Monterrey, claiming four titles and amassing a 24-2 win-loss record in her career at the Abierto GNP Seguros. Azarenka, however, leads their head-to-head 4-1.
"[Pavlyuchenkova] obviously has a lot of success here, likes playing here," said Azarenka. "She has big shots, she’s played really well this year, and it’s not an easy opponent, a very aggressive player."
Azarenka jumped out to a large early lead, clinching a hard-fought first game on her third break point, then garnering a 4-1, double-break advantage later in the set by crushing a forehand down the line to force an error and obtain a break at love.
Diyas refused to succumb, and after the two exchanged breaks, the Kazakh prevented Azarenka from serving out the set at 5-2 by taking a forehand out of the air for a winner on her third break point of that game.
But Azarenka took command in the following game, blasting a forehand to force a wide error from Diyas and queue up set point. There, Azarenka crushed a backhand return winner to polish off the fifth straight game against serve, and with it a one-set lead.
Big hitting from the forehand side gave Azarenka first blood in the second set as well, as the former top-ranked player in the world broke Diyas for a 3-1 start. The forehand wing continued to work for Azarenka during the meat of the set, as she crushed a winner off of that side to consolidate for 4-1.
That pattern would continue as Azarenka nudged towards victory, as a huge service return set up double match point for the Belarusian at 5-2. Azarenka would only need one shot, smashing one final forehand winner to close out a second straight win as a Monterrey debutante.