Indian Wells: Australian Open champion and top seed Victoria Azarenka recovered from a sluggish start to beat Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-1 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday. Trailing 1-4 in the opening set, the pony-tailed Belarusian seized control by winning 11 of the next 12 games and improved her perfect record this season to 15-0.
Azarenka clinched the first set with an ace, then broke Hantuchova for a sixth time in the seventh game of the second when the twice former champion dumped a backhand into the net. "First round matches are never easy and Daniela is such a great player," Azarenka said courtside at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. "She always manages to play well, especially here. It wasn't easy for sure but I am glad I adapted and then played good tennis at the important moments."
Azarenka, who demolished Russian Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-3 in last year's final at Indian Wells, will next face Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, who earlier scraped past Romania's Monica Niculescu 4-6 6-4 6-3. In other matches, former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur eased into the third round with a commanding 6-3, 6-4 victory over American teenager Madison Keys while fourth-seeded German Angelique Kerber swept past Romania's Irina Begu 6-3, 6-2.
Australian Stosur, seeded seventh in the elite WTA event at Indian Wells, broke her opponent's serve once in each set to win the first match of the day on the showpiece Stadium Court after an hour-and-a-quarter.
FIRST MATCH POINT
In bright desert sunshine, Stosur sealed victory on her first match point when wildcard Keys netted a forehand from the baseline and will next meet China's Peng Shuai, a 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Romania's Alexandra Dulgheru. "I'm happy with the way I played," Stosur, who won her only grand slam singles title at the 2011 U.S. Open, said. "I thought I served very well. As soon as I put a little bit of pressure on her early on in her service game ... I really took a bit of a stranglehold on the match."
Stosur was lavish in her praise of the 18-year-old American, who reached her first WTA quarter-final in Sydney earlier this year. "She's got a big game," the Australian world number nine said of Keys. "Her forehand is massive and she's got a very big serve. She's just got to put all the pieces together. She's only 18. I think she's got a lot of potential. She has those big weapons that win these big matches."
In earlier matches, 10th-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova eased past Swiss Stefanie Voegele 6-2, 6-3 and Belgian Yanina Wickmayer beat Croatia's Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.