Azarenka serves Rybarikova a ‘double bagel’ to reach semis

  • Reuters, Reuters
  • Updated: Mar 18, 2016 13:55 IST
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on her way to an easy quarterfinal win over Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in Indian Wells. (AFP Photo)

Victoria Azarenka showed little sympathy against an ailing Magdalena Rybarikova as the Belarussian eased to a 6-0 6-0 victory over her Slovak opponent to book a BNP Paribas Open semi-final berth on Thursday.

The 2012 champion polished off the opening set in just 34 minutes as she raced towards a first ‘double bagel’ at the tournament in two years. “I think the key was the start. I started really well and took control and I think in the second set, she wasn’t really feeling well,” Azarenka, who faces big-serving Czech Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals, told reporters. “I’m glad I stayed focused on my game.”

Following the first set, the unseeded Rybarikova took a medical timeout to have her upper thigh taped. Rybarikova was clearly struggling by the end of the match but the unseeded Slovakian was always fighting a lost cause as she had her serve broken six times and finished with 25 unforced errors. Azarenka continues her rise up the rankings after two injury-hampered seasons and the former world number one is exuding confidence in California this week, having dropped just one set in her tournament. A victory in the final on Sunday would be the 15th-ranked Azarenka’s second tournament win of the season after her Brisbane International triumph in January. “I’m very happy to be playing and to be improving,” she said. “It’s a different stage of my career where I can work hard and enjoy myself. I see the potential and that’s exciting.”

Earlier, Pliskova enjoyed a similarly dominant victory when she cruised into the semi-finals with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Russian teenager Darya Kasatkina. Top seed Serena Williams will take on third-seeded Pole Agnieska Radwanska in Friday’s other semi-final.

Pliskova blasted 30 winners and powered down nine aces to end Kasatkina’s fairytale run in California, wrapping up the win in a little more than an hour at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The 18-year-old Russian was unable to replicate the form she produced in ousting 12th-seeded Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets in the previous round as she was overpowered by the world number 19.

“I was really happy with the way I played, I think it was one of the best matches that I played here so far,” Pliskova, 24, told reporters after reaching her first WTA ‘premier mandatory’ semi-final. “I played some good tennis this week, and then there is Miami (next week), so I have chances to improve my ranking and get close to the top 10 again.” While Kasatkina’s dream run at Indian Wells finally came to an end, the 48th-ranked Russian was able to reflect on her rapid improvement since this time last year when she was toiling away on the lower-tier ITF circuit. “Now I’m (going to be) top 40,” Kasatkina said of her rise up the world rankings. “Last year I was 340. Yeah, it was pretty fast!”

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