MALLORCA, Spain - After losing their first six encounter, Lucie Safarova scored a second straight win over Victoria Azarenka, knocking out the two-time Australian Open champion, 6-3, 6-4.
"I’m really happy because, of course, I was playing against Vika, who is always a tough opponent and a tough match," she said. "I’m really happy with my performance tonight."
Safarova first ended her six-match losing streak to Azarenka back in 2015 to win the Qatar Total Open, going on to reach her maiden major final at the French Open that year. Playing for the first time in over three years on Thursday, the Czech veteran recovered from a break down to win the final four games of the opening set.
Azarenka first played in Mallorca last year to mark her comeback from giving birth to son Leo. After reaching the semifinals of the Miami Open, the Belarusian won just one match during the clay court season, falling to Katerina Siniakova at the first hurdle in Roland Garros.
"I played really well, served well, played aggressively. I didn’t give her time to get into a rhythm. It’s my first quarterfinal of the year, and I had a break of three months, so I’m happy to be coming back into feeling strong again. I hope I’ll continue this well."
Looking to extend the match on Mallorca's Pista Central, she exchanged breaks with the No.7 seed to start the second set, but dropped serve in the crucial tenth game as Safarova sailed over the finish line after 89 minutes on court.
It was an important victory for the 31-year-old, who missed much of the 2018 season due to illness.
"I felt pretty good in Paris, but I was still lacking a bit of fitness. I feel much better on grass and hope I’ll keep feeling stronger."
In all, Safarova struck a stellar 27 winners to just 10 unforced errors, while Azarenka only managed 14 winners to 11 unforced. Safarova also boasted a superior break point conversion rate, winning four of five through the match.
Up next for the the former World No.5 is Germany's Tatjana Maria, who beat compatriot Carina Witthoeft, 7-6(1), 6-3.