Azarenka shakes off jet-lag to beat Zvonareva in duel of ex-stars

Stuttgart - By John Bagratuni - Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva turned back the clock on Wednesday when the former top stars met for the first time in eight years - with Azarenka prevailing 7-5, 6-4 at the Porsche Grand Prix.

The Belarussian Azarenka, 29, shook off fatigue from a long-haul flight from Australia as she won the first-round duel on first match point over her 34-year-old Russian opponent.

"I don't really remember the last match," Azarenka said in reference to their last encounter which she also won 2011 at the WTA Finals.
"We are both in completely different stages of our career. We are both mums and have returned ... It is cool to compete against her again."
Azarenka is a former world number one and double Australian Open champion from 2012 and 2013. Since then she struggled with injuries, became a mother and was engaged in a lengthy child custody battle, leaving her currently ranked a modest 61.
Zvonareva is even lower placed at 84, a far cry from her career best number two ranking and grand slam finals in 2010 at Wimbledon and the US Open. She had her share of injuries, retired from tennis 2015, got married and became a mother as well before returning in 2017.
The Russian only entered the main draw as a lucky loser after initially going out in qualifying, while Azarenka played after a gruelling trip from Down Under where her Belarus team lost a Fed Cup semi-final on Saturday and Sunday.
"The flight from Australia was so long I felt like it was never going to end. I have no idea right now of the time or what's happening," Azarenka told reporters.
But she was pleased with her performance, saying: "I was progressing throughout the match and finished much stronger."
Azarenka went up a break in each set of the baseline duel, only to allow Zvonareva back into the game. But she was there when it mattered, taking the opening set with three unanswered games and getting the deciding break for 5-4 in the second before serving out the match.
The recent Monterrey finalist Azarenka said she has become "a much more complete player" since her long break as she aims to return to the top.
"It is good to be in competition and to build from there," she said.
She next faces a tough second-round date with Czech title holder Karolina Pliskova, for which she will prepare with "sleep."
In other action, Taiwan's Hsieh Su Wei rallied to beat Wang Qiang of China, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to earn a Thursday second-round date with world number one Naomi Osaka of Japan.
Eighth-seeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit ousted French player Caroline Garcia, 6-4, 6-3, to face Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who advanced over 2011 champion Julia Goerges of Germany who retired with what appeared to be neck problems trailing 4-6, 6-2, 4-0.
Swiss Belinda Bencic and Croatian Donna Vekic also progressed while third-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova was aiming for the first quarter-final berth later Wednesday against Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen.


Wednesday, April 24th 2019
By John Bagratuni

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