SONY ERICSSON OPEN
Azarenka Escapes Cibulkova's Upset Bid
by Matt Fitzgerald|
World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka narrowly kept her undefeated season alive at the Sony Ericsson Open Monday, outlasting 16th seed Dominika Cibulkova 1-6, 7-6(7), 7-5 to secure her 26th win in a row.
"I have to give all the credit to her, because she played some splendid tennis, just amazing," Azarenka said. "She was hitting every possible line there was... So it kinda felt like she closed her eyes and just went for everything, and me, I couldn't just really open my eyes. I was like blinded a little bit."
Cibulkova led 6-1, 4-0, and served for the match up 5-2 and 5-4 in the second set, before Azarenka staged her comeback. The defending Miami champion let a break advantage slip twice in the third set, but closed out the victory in two hours and 49 minutes after Cibulkova hit a forehand long.
"The turning point was [at] 6-1, 5-2 on my serve, and I just didn't finish the match," said Cibulkova. "Until then, I was killing her [with] the return and the forehand. After that, I just didn't want to go for so much. I just wanted her to beat herself. That didn't happen."
With the win, Azarenka improved to 7-1 against Cibulkova, having also eliminated the Slovakian in the third round at Crandon Park last year. The Belarusian is aiming to win her fifth title this season, and is also bidding to become the first woman to pull off the Indian Wells–Miami double since Kim Clijsters in 2005.
In the quarter-finals, Azarenka will play seventh seed Marion Bartoli. The Frenchwoman dismissed No. 22 seed Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-2. Bartoli capitalized on six of her nine break point opportunities to advance past the Russian in 67 minutes.
"Marion is a great player and she's a great fighter," said Azarenka. "I know we had so many matches already and we had a lot of tough battles, so this is going to be another tough one, for sure."
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