Victoria Azarenka looks to mount a late run for a seeded spot at the French Open this weekend in Rome, taking on Karolina Pliskova in the quarter finals of Rome. A final may be enough for that but a title would all but confirm it, placing her around 25 in the live rankings with that result.
Azarenka moved through to the quarter finals after a second set retirement from Muguruza but it was her thrilling victory on Tuesday night against Elina Svitolina that suggested her killer instinct may be returning. She came back from match point down in the final set, reeling off five straight games to complete the comeback 2-6 6-1 7-5 victory. “Right now I’m looking at the overall big picture and trying to improve every aspect of my game,” Azarenka said after that win. “Obviously, movement is very important on clay court, and I feel like I’m getting better and more accustomed to clay. Especially this year, I feel a lot more at ease on clay. I’m happy with that.”
Pliskova also played just once on Thursday, securing a comeback victory against Sofia Kenin. She was a set and break down against the American before fighting back, to win 4-6 6-4 6-3. There was a marked improvement in her serving as time went on, with just two break points faced (and saved) from her 6-4 2-0 deficit midway through the match. “I was struggling a little bit in the first set with my focus and my tennis,” Pliskova said post-match “I started to play better and was focused on my serve and not what was happening around [the grounds], and I think I played fine.”
Azarenka is considered the bookmakers favourite going into this one, having took a 4-3 lead in the head to head following their Stuttgart meeting recently. Azarenka won that one in three sets although the indoor conditions there do not really compare to most of the outdoor events. “For me, she’s improving, from what I’ve seen of a couple of her matches now. She’s just beating also the good players, and for me, she’s maybe closer to the level that she was before.” Pliskova said of the Belarussian. Another big top 10 win would be a major confidence boost for a player who thrives on that.
Prediction – Victoria Azarenka in three sets