Venus Williams downs Azarenka in a classic clash — WTA Auckland

Caroline Wozniacki recalls childhood experience with Venus Williams

Caroline Wozniacki recalls childhood experience with Venus Williams

The ageless Venus Williams launched her 25th year as a professional by outlasting Victoria Azarenka in a three-set thriller on day two of the WTA Auckland Classic on Tuesday. And although it was Venus Williams who got on to the right foot in the match, the Belarusian did find her zone and fought her way into a good position after dropping the first five of the six games in the match.

No. 2 seed Julia Goerges saw off Johanna Larsson 6-0, 6-4, while third seed Su-Wei Hsieh progressed with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Polona Hercog. Williams, who had the edge over Azarenka in their previous encounters although they haven't met on tour since 2015, started stronger with her punishing serves and forehands.

The superb shotmaking surely lived up to the billings as a stunning forehand pass on the run from Azarenka testified.

For the second set momentum shifted in the direction of Azarenka, as she became more accurate with her shots and she broke Williams in the fourth game.

In the showdown between the two former world number ones, the 38-year-old Williams overcame Azarenka, nine years her junior, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

It was like a men's grass court match in the early exchanges, with both players going for winners early and there being few long rallies.

Gone were the unforced errors from the first set, and she began to overpower the American at the baseline.

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The 2 hour, 10 minute marathon was packed with power and precision, and in the end Azarenka's nine aces were not enough.

It was Williams' first goal of 2019 simply to reach to the second round.

"I didn't take my opportunities", she said. After holding her serve under pressure in the opening game, Azarenka broke for a 3-1 lead and broke again to take out the set in 34 minutes.

Azarenka gained confidence as she broke Williams for an early lead in the third, clinching the break with a well-placed lob. "She has the experience and the first match of the year, too". The Swede showed some fight to break back and level at 4-4 in the second but the defending champion hit a down the line backhand victor to close out the match.

Fifth seed Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic survived a challenge from American Taylor Townsend, winning a topsy turvey battle 6-2 6-7 6-3. "It was very tough", said Strycova, as the New Zealand Herald Stuff reported.

I won't change it. I won that match because of my head...

(7) Kirsten Flipkens b. (8) Alison van Uytvanck 3-4 ret.

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