The last time Victoria Azarenka took to the court at the Miami Open, she won the title with a win over Svetlana Kuznetsova. 2 years on, she looks far from that level as she continues to the slow road back following a second long absence. It isn’t an easy start for her in round one with CiCi Bellis her first opponent.
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Azarenka returned to Indian Wells with a win, beating Heather Watson in her first match. However, she was overwhelmed in the next by Sloane Stephens. Her serve remains a major weakness and was broken 6 times overall in the 6-1 7-5 loss to the American. “I found a little bit better rhythm in the second set, found a little bit more fight,” said a disappointed Azarenka after that match. “But just, you know, really low quality consistency from me today, and it’s tough to win matches like this.”
18-year old Bellis may have had hopes for a run at Indian Wells but she was defeated in the second round by defending champion Elena Vesnina. She won the first set against the Russian but won just two games in the next two as the match spiraled out of control. Bellis still is the highest ranked player under 19 on tour but Czech Marketa Vondrousova is only a few spots behind her and could take that title over the next 2 weeks.
Azarenka and Bellis met last year at Wimbledon with the former No.1 winning in three sets. With Azarenka still looking incredibly rusty, Bellis may feel she has the opportunity to avenge this but will need to avoid another major drop off after winning an opening set.
Prediction – Victoria Azarenka in three sets