Azarenka upends defending champion Svitolina

Victoria Azarenka ended Elina Svitolina’s winning run at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, defeating the two-time defending champion 4-6 6-1 7-5 in a scintillating encounter on Tuesday evening at the Foro Italico.

The Belarusian former world No. 1 saved one match point and battled back from 5-2 40-30 down to clinch victory in a rain-affected match which started at 7.30pm but didn’t finish until close to midnight.

The first set was a close encounter, Svitolina gaining the early advantage to lead 3-1 before Azarenka immediately broke back. Further break point opportunities followed for both players but it was the No. 5 seed who was finally able to capitalise, breaking Azarenka in the tenth game to take the first set.

The second set was a much more one-sided affair, Azarenka responding better to the breaks in play due to the rain, winning 19 out of 20 points to help her to win the second set and force a decider.

Showing no sign of the knee injury which has bothered her in recent weeks, Svitolina raced to a 3-0 lead in the third set, covering the court at speed and firing winners from her forehand side. With a double break advantage in the bag the match looked done and dusted but Azarenka had other ideas. Raising her level and refusing to give up the 2013 finalist won five straight games to claim a hard-fought victory and book her spot in the third round for the first time since 2015.