Azarenka wins battle of mothers in Stuttgart

Published by Tennismash/AAP

ON TOP: Belarus' Victoria Azarenka celebrates after defeating Vera Zvonareva in Stuttgart; Getty Images
Victoria Azarenka makes a winning start in Stuttgart, defeating fellow mother and former top 10 rival Vera Zvonareva in the opening round.

Victoria Azarenka has made a winning return to Stuttgart, defeating Russia’s Vera Zvonareva in an engrossing first-round battle at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.

Former world No.1 Azarenka was pushed, but fought hard to record a 7-5 6-4 victory.

The last time the pair met was in 2011, when they were both ranked in the top 10.

“We’re both in completely different stages of our careers, we’re both mums,” Azarenka said after scoring a fifth win in her 11th professional meeting against Zvonareva.

“I think I’m playing better than I used to before, I believe I’m much more of a complete player than I used to be. I’m in the process of building my game up again.”

The 29-year-old, a two-time Australian Open champion, also had to overcome jet lag after competing in the Fed Cup semifinal in Australia at the weekend.

“I have no idea right now of the time or what’s happening,” she told reporters.

“The flight from Australia was so long I felt like it was never going to end. It was a huge challenge for me today and I’m very happy with the way I handled it.”

Azarenka now faces fourth seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Earlier, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic started the tournament strongly with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Luxembourg qualifier Mandy Minella, in a match that lasted 75 minutes.

Bencic, who ended a four-year title drought in February in Dubai, struck 24 winners with her aggressive returns dominating her opponent. It sets up a second-round clash against sixth seed Kiki Bertens.

Last year’s semifinalist Anett Kontaveit of Estonia breezed past France’s Caroline Garcia 6-4 6-3, while Donna Vekic beat Giulia Gatto-Monticone 6-1 7-5 to advance.

German favourite and 2011 champion Julia Goerges’ first match was cut short by a neck injury, forced to retire when she was trailing 4-0 in the final set to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Czech Petra Kvitova is the first player into the quarterfinals, closing the day with a 6-1 6-4 second round win over Belgian qualifer Greet Minnen.

The 29-year-old has a chance to rise to world No.1 if she wins the Stuttgart title this week.

However, reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka can ensure she retains the top ranking for another week if she defeats Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh in the second round tomorrow.

Hsieh, who advanced with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over China’s Wang Qiang, defeated Osaka in three sets in Miami last month.

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Seeds continue to fall in Istanbul

Second seed Mihaela Buzarnescu became the latest seed to make an early exit at the WTA event in Istanbul, beaten by Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan in the second round.

The No.72-ranked Gasparyan won a two-hour battle 1-6 6-4 7-5.

Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena and Czech Barbora Strycova also advanced to the quarterfinals.

The last remaining seed, the sixth-seeded Petra Martic, features in second round action tomorrow.

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