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Italian Open: Azarenka moves past Stephens, Bondar upsets Pliskova

Rome, May 11 (IANS) There were mixed fortunes for former World No.1s in the second round of the Italian Open on Thursday as Victoria Azarenka defeated Sloane Stephens, but Karolina Pliskova fell to Anna Bondar, here.

No.14 seed Azarenka ended Sloane Stephens’ six-match winning streak 6-4, 6-3 while qualifier Bondar scored her first Top 20 win 7-6(5), 6-2 over No.13 seed Pliskova.

Despite the scoreline, Azarenka’s 1-hour, 42-minute victory was far from straightforward. The 2013 finalist trailed by a break twice in the first set and once in the second; there were 10 breaks of serve in total.

Both players had to adjust to each other’s shifting tactics, mixing up high balls, drop shots and all-out power as they sought to gain the upper hand.

Ultimately, it was Azarenka who was more aggressive overall. She struck 25 groundstroke winners compared to Stephens’ 13, with her ability to open up the court with her backhand proving crucial.

The 33-year-old also navigated the most tense passages of play well. Having come through five deuces to break for 4-2 in the second set, she then came out on the wrong end of another tussle to drop serve after seven deuces.

Nonetheless, Azarenka was able to redouble her efforts to win the final two games of the match and take a 5-4 lead in her overall head-to-head against Stephens.

After losing four straight matches to the American in 2018 and 2019, Azarenka has now won both of their meetings this year following her second-round victory in Charleston.

The 33-year old Azarenka will next face either No.19 seed Madison Keys or qualifier Magdalena Frech.

On the other hand, the 25-year-old Hungarian Bondar reached the third round at WTA 1000 level or above for the first time after defeating Pliskova.

Her drop shot proved to be the contest’s key stroke, and her delicate touch with it repeatedly outfoxed the 2019 champion.

After edging a tight opening set, Bondar raced away with the second, winning 16 of the first 21 points to take a quick 4-0 lead — one that proved insurmountable for the Czech player.

Bondar’s next test will be either No.22 seed Zheng Qinwen or 2008 finalist Alize Cornet.



Agency News Desk
Agency News Desk
The Agency News Desk comprises team members including Puja T, S Ghadashi, N N Sethi, curate & publish news-worthy domestic & international content from the designated news agencies like Indo Asian News Service, others. The content team can be contacted on and on @glamsham on social media platforms. Kindly visit for more information
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