Maria Sharapova battles past Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki makes early exit
Last Updated: 17/03/15 8:33am
Maria Sharapova needed six match points to grind out a 6-4, 6-3 win over Victoria Azarenka in a rare early marquee matchup at Indian Wells on Monday.
Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki became the biggest name to fall at the BNP Paribas Open after being ousted by Swiss teen Belinda Bencic
Sharapova appeared to be ready to close out her third-round match in the eighth game of the second set but two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka decided she was not going down without a fight.
Azarenka saved four match points in the eighth game of the final set and another in the ninth before finally succumbing on a Sharapova cross-court backhand that she clobbered into the net.
"She played right to the last point," Sharapova said of Azarenka.
Sharapova moves through to the round of 16 where she will square off against defending women's champ Flavia Pennetta of Italy.
Monday's third-round centre court clash between two former world number ones in the California desert tournament was a rematch of the 2012 Indian Wells final which was won by Azarenka.
They have met 14 times with each winning seven but Sharapova has now won the last three contests.
"We have played so many tough matches in our careers. It is great to see her back because she was injured most of last year," said Sharapova.
Belarus's Azarenka, who is ranked 32 in the tournament, says she is beginning to get her form back on the court.
And she played a strong serve and volley game Monday but was undone by some careless mistakes at key moments.
Azarenka had nine double faults, committed 37 unforced errors and was broken four times by Sharapova in the one hour, 51 minute match.
"I created too many opportunities not to take them," said Azarenka, who played just nine tournaments in 2014 because of injuries. "You cannot afford it against a player like Maria.
"That's very disappointing. I've got to step it up with finishing those games and really taking my chances."
Fourth seed out
Wozniacki became the biggest name to fall in the WTA draw thus far when the fourth seed was ousted 6-4 6-4 by Bencic.
Wozniacki, champion at Indian Wells in 2011, had overwhelmed Bencic 6-0 6-0 in their only previous meeting in Istanbul last year but it was a very different story at the California desert venue as the Dane struggled for consistency.
"Honestly, it was two completely different matches," Wozniacki said after being broken twice in the opening set and once in the second at a sun-bathed Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
"I went out there today and I didn't play well at all."
Canadian Eugenie Bouchard used her potent forehand to great effect as she broke an error-prone CoCo Vandeweghe once in the opening set and twice in the second, completing a one-sided victory in just over an hour 6-3 6-2.
In other matches, fifth-seeded Serb Ana Ivanovic lost 6-2 5-7 6-2 to Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, while reigning champion Flavia Pennetta of Italy beat Australian Samantha Stosur 6-4 6-2.