A blockbuster match-up worthy of a semi-final or final spot at any Premier event is set to grace the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open on Wednesday, as world No. 1 Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka get set to cross paths once again on the WTA Tour. Williams leads the head-to-head series 14-3, including a recent win at the start of the season in Brisbane.
Up against another former rival in Sloane Stephens, it appeared as though the second round match would be a tough competitive affair for Williams. However, after a close opening set, the world No. 1 breezed through the second frame to hand Stephens a 6-4, 6-0 thrashing on Tuesday. Williams only managed 5 winners to 12 unforced errors in the opening set but that was clearly due to the windy conditions. Once she adjusted in the second set, she ran away with the contest.
“She’s such a tough player – I’ve never won a 6-0 set against her before, and I don’t think I can ever do that again!” Williams said. “But today I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is one of the reasons I love this surface.’ It just gives you so many chances to get in the point and play yourself into the match.
Williams will next encounter Azarenka, who needed to win just two more games than Williams to earn her spot in the third round. She defeated Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 in a match where she struck five aces, won 74% of her first service points and saved two break points to earn the victory in 90 minutes.
Williams leads Azarenka in their head-to-head series, 14-3, including the most recent victory at the start of the season in Brisbane. However, the pair split four meetings last year, Azarenka winning at Doha and Cincinnati and Williams at Rome and the US Open, making this a fantastic, compelling rivalry and a thrilling third round encounter. Azarenka is gradually returning to her 2012-13 form but she will have her work cut out for her to halt the incredible 25-match win streak that her upcoming opponent embarked on starting at the end of last season.
Prediction: Serena Williams in Three Sets