Former world No. 1 Venus Williams overpowered ailing top seed Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-4 with ruthless efficiency to reach the round-of-16 of the Pan Pacific Open yesterday.
The seven-time Grand Slam champion showed glimpses of her gunslinging best under the Tokyo floodlights against a grimacing Azerenka, who spent much of the match bending over her racket between points and tugging sharply on her purple top in frustration.
“I’ve sat through two US Open finals between her and Serena [Williams], and you could tell from the first game she wasn’t herself,” Venus Williams told reporters.
Azarenka, beaten by Serena Williams in the US Open final earlier this month in a repeat of last year’s championship match in New York, had a large fan brought courtside to try to cool off at the changeovers, but such was her obvious discomfort she failed to threaten Venus Williams.
The 24-year-old Belarussian threw several tantrums as she repeatedly wafted shots off target or into the net.
“I haven’t been able to practice for three days and I didn’t sleep at all last night,” Azarenka said.
Venus Williams completed her third victory in three meetings between the pair with a second serve. Australian Open champion Azarenka wearily hooked it wide, before trudging off the court close to tears.
“I’m getting better every tournament,” said Venus Williams, currently ranked a lowly 63rd in the world after two years of illness and injury problems.
Big-hitting Australian Samantha Stosur, seeded 12th, shunted out Japan’s golden oldie Kimiko Date-Krumm, although the 2011 US Open champion had to work for her 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) win over the 42-year-old local favorite.
Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova upset third seed Sara Errani of Italy, registering a 6-4, 6-4 win to reach the third round.
Sixth seed Jelena Jankovic brushed aside Japan’s Ayumi Morita 6-4, 6-1 to advance. Another Serbian former world No. 1, Ana Ivanovic, thrashed Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-0 to set up a meeting with fifth seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.
Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard pulled off a surprise 5-7, 7-6 (9/7), 6-3 victory over ninth seed Sloane Stephens, whose fellow American Madison Keys fared far better with a mature display in a 7-5, 6-2 victory over China’s Peng Shuai that belied her tender age of 18.
In the doubles, No. 1 seeds Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan and China’s Peng cruised into the second round in just over an hour with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova and Lisa Raymond of the US.
The cross-strait duo converted seven of eight break-point chances to set up a second-round match with Germany’s Julia Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.
Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching also advanced after she teamed up with Liezel Huber of the US to defeat Japan’s Date-Krumm and Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain 6-4, 6-2.
Chan and Huber next face No. 3 seeds Jankovic of Serbia and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia.
Additional reporting by staff writer
By Dave Carroll
Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan and Hsieh Shu-ying both advanced to the second round of the doubles competition at the Yinzhou Bank International in Ningbo, China, yesterday.
Chan and Zhang Shuai of China took less than an hour to cruise past Bolivia’s Maria Fernanda Alvarez Teran and Keri Wong of the US 6-3, 6-1 to set up a second-round clash with Canada’s Sharon Fichman and Julia Glushko of Israel.