Azarenka defeats Lisicki and advances into third round of China Open

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Many observers were salivating at the prospect of this second round clash, which pitted in-form world number one Victoria Azarenka against the inconsistent but dangerous Sabine Lisicki. Although Azarenka had won both of their previous contests, each match had gone deep into the third set. Lisicki had beaten Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon this year, and many believe she has the tools and the talent to make it to the top of the women’s game.

Today, however, the powerful German ran into a solid and determined Azarenka, withVika prevailing in straight sets 6-4 6-2.

The Belarusian raced into a double-break lead in the first set, and although Lisicki clawed back to 5-4, she could not prevent the Australian Open champion from taking it 6-4.

Buoyed by seizing the momentum, Azarenka’s form improved in the second set. Despite serving another three double faults, she won an incredible 86% of her opponent’s second service points and broke Lisicki three times. Azarenka took the set 6-2, wrapping up victory in 80 minutes.

In the third round, she will face the Russian Elena Vesnina, who should not present her with too many problems. In fact, assuming that Azarenka does not suffer a relapse of the dizziness that forced her to pull out of last week’s Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, she will be favourite for the title in Beijing.

The world number one may be regarded only the second best player in the world, behind Serena Williams, but she has been dominant in that role in 2012, losing only three times to players other than Serena. Although the American bested her at Wimbledon and the Olympics, their titanic US Open final tussle was a sign that Azarenka is gaining ground, one of the few players capable of challenging Serena at her best. Serena’s absence from Beijing this week means that Azarenka has a much better chance of ending the year as the world’s top-ranked player, but she would love to seal the deal by winning the China Open, an event that awards a hefty 1000 points to the victor.

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