Victoria Azarenka was also successful on her return to the court after a lengthy absence and is rewarded with another late night match on Stadium 1, taking on Sloane Stephens. The US Open champion has not quite lit up the court since her title but this match offers her a great opportunity to finally end her winless record against the 2016 Indian Wells champion.
Check out the Azarenka vs Stephens Head to Head
Azarenka looked in good form earlier although there are still concerns over her serve, which looked to be on the wane prior to her absence. She mostly controlled both sets in her 6-4 6-2 win although going from 5-1 to 5-4 would have got the nerves going. “My focus was just to be out there and enjoy myself, and not to put too much pressure — but of course I’ve done that in the match, and I wanted to push myself,” Azarenka commented. “But just being out there was the most important thing.”
Much of the post-match focus was on the personal issues surrounding her absence but she is still confident of further success in her career. “It’s unfortunate and it’s not a great time but it’s part of life and I’m still 28 years old and recently there are number ones over 30 so I’m okay with that. I’m still young.”
Stephens finally ended her 8 match losing streak in Acapulco last month, making the quarter finals before a disappointing loss to Stefanie Voegele. Due to her US Open title, the American will still be the beneficiary of high seedings for most of the year but she will need to start taking advantage of them sooner rather than later. Stephens is a career 0-3 against Azarenka, losing in three straight Australian Opens between 2013 and 2015.
Prediction – Victoria Azarenka in three sets