Azarenka Prepping For Wimbledon By Playing In Germany

Victoria Azarenka (photo: Bad Homburg Open, Paul Zimmer/Daniel Maurer)

BAD HOMBURG/WASHINGTON, June 22, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

It took Victoria Azarenka a little bit longer to get warmed up than expected – and then rain interrupted play at the WTA 250-series Bad Homburg Open presented by Engel & Völkers for a little more than an hour. However, once the No. 2 seed from Belarus got warmed up upon returning, she proved to the small but appreciative Centre Court crowd in the central German town she’s still got game on grass.

Azarenka defeated 271st-ranked qualifier Yuliya Hatouka, 7-5, 6-0, in an all-Belarus first-round match by winning the final 10 games. The win improved her record on grass this season to 4-1 and set up a second-round match against No. 56 Alizé Cornet of France on Wednesday.

The World No. 16 from Minsk broke the 21-year-old Hatouka, a two-time titlist this season on the ITF World Tour circuit, seven times during their one hour and 17-minute match – including all three of her service games in the second set – and secured match point on a double fault.

Azarenka, 31, dominated her younger opponent, who was playing in just her second WTA main draw match, by hitting four aces and winning 74 percent (31 of 42) of her first-serve points. She saved seven of the 10 break points she faced – all of them coming in the first set – and outpointed Hatouka 71-46. By the end of the match Azarenka was in total control.

Afterward, before another round of rain showers cut short her post-match interview to allow the grounds crew ample time to apply the tarpaulin on the grass court, Azarenka said: “I felt like I started the match well. Then, after the rain break, I felt like I was a bit slower and making too many mistakes. I tried to adjust – not rushing too much – and I’m glad I was able to calm down and find my rhythm.

“I was a bit nervous to play here. [It’s] my first time here. It took some time to adjust to the court. I played last week [in Berlin] and you would think the grass would be the same everywhere, but it’s really different. The court [here] is slower and I had to adjust my footwork today. I’m glad I was able to find it at the end.”

After not playing on grass since 2019, Azarenka is playing her second straight week on the surface after reaching the singles semifinals at the bett1Open in Berlin and teaming with Aryna Sabalenka to capture the doubles title.

“It’s been a good week, and I’ve had a lot of matches to play on the grass courts before Wimbledon,” said Azarenka, who reached back-to-back Wimbledon semifinals in 2011 and 2012. Although she wanted to expand on her thought about playing on grass, again, the rain started to fall. Instead, she helped carry the microphone stand off the grass court and made a hasty retreat to the locker room.

Tuesday’s Bad Homburg Open results

Wednesday’s Bad Homburg order of play

Around the Bad Homburg Open

Steady rain delayed play on the TC Bad Homburg grounds for more than three hours after the completion of the first match of the day between Victoria Azarenka and Yuliya Hatouka. The tarpaulin came off Centre Court at 5:23 p.m. and the second match of the day, between No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula and unseeded Katerina Siniakova began at 5:53 p.m. It was worth the delay as the high-intensity level of play exhibited by both players in this back-and-forth match was met with plenty of applause throughout the two hour and nine-minute duration.

Siniakova pulled out a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Pegula to reach her third career quarterfinal on grass. She won on her second match-point opportunity after completing a 20-shot rally with a solid forehand winner. Siniakova hit nine aces and won 69 percent of her first-serve points. The Czech converted five of seven break-point opportunities and outpointed Pegula 102-99.

“It was a really tough match,” Siniakova said during an on-court interview following her victory that was secured just past 8 o’clock. “I think I played really well. I’m happy I finished like this. It was a really good game.

“[Jessica] played really amazing. I knew it was going to be [a] hard [match to win]. I found my rhythm and I’m so happy that even when I was losing, I could finish it.”

• Next, Siniakova will face No. 8 seed Laura Siegemund, who advanced to her first grass-court quarterfinal with a 6-2, 6-2 win over fellow German Tamara Korpatsch, ranked 143rd, in an hour and 41 minutes. The No. 55 Siegemund broke Korpatsch five times in 10 chances and outpointed her opponent 70-53.

• No. 81 Amanda Anisimova of the United States moved into the quarterfinal round with a 6-1, 7-5 win over No. 130 Andrea Petkovic of Germany in 64 minutes. The match ended at 9:20 p.m. as darkness set in over Centre Court. Anisimova converted four of five break-point chances and outpointed Petkovic 65-38. Next, she will face either No. 4 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, ranked 28th, or No. 90 Anna Blinkova of Russia, who play Wednesday afternoon.

• The second-round match between No. 7 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, ranked 54th, and No. 83 Misaki Doi of Japan was suspended due to darkness in the second set with Sorribes Tormo ahead 6-4, 2-3. It will be resumed on Wednesday with the winner advancing to Thursday’s quarterfinals.