Victoria Azarenka dominated fellow Belarusian Vera Lapko to set up a blockbuster second-round match with Serena Williams at Indian Wells.
Azarenka eventually dealt with Lapko 6-2 6-3 and appears to be rounding into some form, having won four of her six matches since the Australian Open.
Williams presents a different proposition for Azarenka, however; the 23-time major champion has won 17 of their 21 career meetings.
Azarenka did win their most recent meeting, in the final of his very tournament in 2016.
We're set for Serena Williams-Victoria Azarenka XXII in the 2R.
— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) March 7, 2019
Other winners on Wednesday in the Californian desert were former world No.4 Johanna Konta, young guns Amanda Anisimova and Bianca Andreescu, and last week’s Acapulco runner-up Sofia Kenin, who turned the tables on her conqueror, Yafan Wang, in three sets.
“It was the first time I played against a Belarusian girl, so it was a little sensitive the first round, but I’m happy I went through. Little bit of a slow start, but I picked it up after,” Azarenka said, before turning her attention to Williams.
“Of course it’s gonna be a very special match for us. It’s gonna be the first time (we played) since we both became moms. We have such a big history already with matches.
“It’s gonna be competitive (laughter), for sure, like always, I hope. It’s gonna be fun.
“Serena is one of the players why I still play. She motivates me, she inspires me to do better, she always pushes me. So I’m really looking forward to that.”
Defeats countrywoman Lapko, 6-2, 6-3! pic.twitter.com/BxDD1su5Q4
— WTA (@WTA) March 7, 2019
Williams, seeded 10th, has not played since losing in the Australian Open quarterfinals to Karolina Pliskova.
The winner of Azarenka-Williams faces a likely third-round date with Garbine Muguruza, who takes on Lauren Davis in the second round.
Konta beat Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier to set up an intriguing battle with Hsieh Su-Wei, the crafty Taiwanese player who is seeded 27th and who presents a distinctly different style to the Brit.
Konta, currently ranked 45th, has won their last two meetings, and three of her past four matches after an appearance in last week’s Acapulco quarterfinals.
Konta vs. Hsieh will be such an amusing contrast of personality and playing style.
One is a bit robotic and all about being functional, the other is as creative and unpredictable as they get. #BNPPO19
— Matt Roberts (@Roberts96Matt) March 6, 2019
Anisimova returned to the site of her breakthrough tournament last year and proved her fourth-round showing in 2018 was no fluke with a dominant victory over Aleksandra Krunic.
The wildcard won the first seven games of the match and held three break points to make it eight games in a row, before running out a 6-0 6-4 winner.
Fellow teenager Andreescu, meanwhile, had far less of a comfortable time, falling behind 5-1 in the first set against Irina-Camelia Begu.
She closed the gap yet still lost the opening set in a tiebreak, and found herself down 3-1 in the final set, yet eventually won 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3.
She next faces No.32 seed Dominika Cibulkova, while Anisimova takes on 16th seed Elise Mertens.
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