In a battle between Grand Slam champions, Sloane Stephens overcame Victoria Azarenka in three sets to progress to the third round of the Madrid Open.
Stephens notched her fourth straight victory over the former world No.1, winning 6-4 2-6 6-2 after also beating Azarenka at Indian Wells, Miami and the US Open last year.
Also progressing to the third round was defending champion Petra Kvitova, last year’s finalist Kiki Bertens, former world No.7 Belinda Bencic and ninth seed Ash Barty, who extended her winning streak to 10 with victory over Danielle Collins.
Stephens, the No.8 seed and 2017 US Open champion, will next face either Alize Cornet or Zheng Saisai, aiming for the quarterfinals in Madrid for the first time in her career.
“I think it’s better to play competitive matches like that early on, so you can get the juices flowing and get everything the way it should be,” Stephens told wtatennis.com.
“Overall, that match today is really helpful for the next few weeks in a row.”
Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion in 2012 and 2013, lamented how the match unfolded.
“I didn’t create anything with my serve today and it was really frustrating. I didn’t really have a game plan,” she said. “There was really no game plan of what to do with the serve and that is something I need to take a look at and fix.”
On the men’s side, ninth seed Marin Cilic and 11th seed Karen Khachanov scored much needed wins and secured their places in the second round in the Spanish capital.
Cilic saved four match points in the 12th game of the third set then dominated the subsequent tiebreak to beat qualifier Martin Klizan 6-4 2-6 7-6(0).
— Carlos (@TheMagician5GS) May 6, 2019
The victory saw Cilic snap a four-match losing streak. He next faces Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.
Khachanov was on a five-match losing streak before beating Spain’s Jaume Munar 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 to set up a meeting with another Spaniard in Fernando Verdasco.
Grigor Dimitrov, however, was unable to join them in the second round.
Now ranked 49th, the former world No.3 went down in two tiebreaks to Taylor Fritz.
Between Marin and Karen, not sure who needed today's win more but good for both of them.
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) May 6, 2019
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