Azarenka battles past Pavyuchenkova to reach Madrid Open second round

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In the ladies’ singles night match on Monday which completed the first round at the Matua Madrid Open, 3rd seed Victoria Azarenka had a major battle on her hands when she came up against the 19th ranked Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Azarenka has been off the tour for almost two months with an ankle injury, while Pavlyuchenkova has been having a great season, winning two titles in the space of just a few weeks including last week in Portugal. In the first set games went to 5-5 when Pavlyuchenkova broke to lead 6-5 with her serve to come, but Azarenka broke straight back to force a breaker. Pavlyuchenkova took the lead all the way to 6-3, but the Belarusian fought back to level at 6-6 and eventually took the breaker 10-8 on her ninth set point. The second set was just as tight. Azarenka built up 4-1 and 5-2 leads, but the Russian came back to level at 5-5 and go 6-5 ahead, again with her serve to come. Yet again, after going up 40-15, Pavlyuchenkova let Azarenka back in and head into another breaker. This time Azarenka wasted no time in clinching the breaker 7-3, to take the match in two and a quarter hours and to move into the second round, where she will meet Ekaterina Makarova.

In other first round action, 13th seed Maria Kirilenko progressed to the second round when her opponent, Klara Zakopalova, retired injured when trailing 3-6 1-2. She will next play against Kristina Mladenovic.

Svetlana Kuznetsova made light work of her match against Jie Zheng of China, beating her 6-2 6-3 in just an hour and nine minutes. Her second round opponent will be her compatriot, Nadia Petrova.

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