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Svitolina vs Azarenka tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Defending champion Svitolina at risk in Rome

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 14 May 2019
  • Elina Svitolina faces Victoria Azarenka in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia
  • Svitolina vs Azarenka is live from Rome on Tuesday at 7.30pm local/6.30pm BST
Elina Svitolina (PA Sport)

After just one clay-court match in 2019, Elina Svitolina’s bid for a third consecutive WTA Rome title could come to an abrupt end as she starts her defense against former finalist Victoria Azarenka on Tuesday.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina has a tough test in her opening match at the 2019 Internazionali BNL d’Italia against former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

Elina Svitolina won back-to-back Rome titles in 2017-18 (PA Sport)
Having played some absolutely dazzling tennis in Rome the past two years, beating Simona Halep in the 2017 and 2018 finals to claim back-to-back titles, Svitolina is now aiming to become the first woman since Conchita Martinez in 1994-6 to win three Internazionali BNL d’Italia titles in a row.

But there’s no question that the Ukrainian’s preparation for this tournament has been less than ideal. Svitolina ended 2018 on a huge high after winning the WTA Finals Singapore, and went on to go 13-6 in the first three months, making her second Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open, reaching the semifinals in Dubai and Indian Wells and the quarterfinals in Doha. After an early defeat to Wang Yafan in Miami, however, Svitolina revealed that she had been struggling with a knee injury and had been advised after an MRI to take time off to rest it. 

Svitolina only returned to competition last week in Madrid, where she promptly lost in straight sets to French journeywoman Pauline Parmentier, 4-6, 6-7(6). So it’s anything but ideal preparation for defending her title, even if her knee is fully recovered – or for the French Open – although Svitolina played this down during her pre-tournament press.

‘Of course, there is some kind of pressure when you come to the tournament where you have to defend a title. I try to don't think so much about it. I try to don't look at it that way. I try to take it as a motivation for the matches here,’ she said.

‘Every match is very important for me. I will try to prepare as much as I can. Almost every match is like a final for me. I try to be ready 100%.

‘For me, I don't think it's a big difference if I have 10 or 15 matches for the past months, or I have a few. You go on court, [what matters is] your mindset. You have to be ready for everything. Every player is tough, so you have to be prepared and ready for the fight.’

It’s true that every player is tough – but there aren’t many tougher ones to face in the second round than Victoria Azarenka.

Victoria Azarenka (PA Sport)
A semifinalist in Rome as far back in 2009, Azarenka reached the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final in 2013, losing to Serena Williams, and was a quarterfinalist in 2015. But in 2016, she lost to Irina-Camelia Begu – the penultimate match she would play that season before giving birth to son Leo, a custody battle involving whom would keep her out of competition for most of 2017 as well. Finally returning in March 2018, Azarenka once again lost in the first round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia to Naomi Osaka as she struggled to find her feet on the tour once more.

That struggle has continued throughout 2018 and into 2019, with a visibly frustrated Azarenka in tears after losing in the first round of the Australian Open to Laura Siegemund. The former world no. 1 went 5-6 through the first three months of the year – typically the strongest part of the season for her – as she struggled to translate what she was doing in practice on to the match court. 

But Azarenka finally played some good tennis in Monterrey where she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Angelique Kerber to reach the final, only to be forced to retire in said final against Garbine Muguruza. She played well in Fed Cup and beat defending champion Karolina Pliskova in Stuttgart but was again forced to retire against Anett Kontaveit, and in Madrid beat Daria Kasatkina but exited at the hands of nemesis Sloane Stephens in three sets.

It really feels like Azarenka is on the brink of playing some of her best tennis, if she can just avoid injuries and get a tiny bit of luck from the draw. But equally it’s entirely possible her days at the very top are behind her. Either way, she won’t be an easy opponent for Svitolina to face on Tuesday. Their two previous encounters both went Azarenka’s way, but both came in 2015. Svitolina is a much, much better player than she was then – much more aggressive and powerful, much better at taking matters into her own hands off the ground, a better server, too. That should make for a fascinating match-up against a player who shares much of her strengths – both women extraordinarily good at absorbing and redirecting pace, Svitolina perhaps more consistent off the ground, Azarenka better at attacking down the lines. The unknown, however, is Svitolina’s fitness and form after her knee injury and after lacking in matches. Could Azarenka snatch a big win in Rome?

Svitolina vs Azarenka Internazionali BNL d’Italia tennis is live from Rome on Tuesday at 7.30pm local/6.30pm BST

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Svitolina vs Azarenka tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Defending champion Svitolina at risk in Rome

Elina Svitolina vs Victoria Azarenka live streaming, preview and predictions for the WTA Rome Internazionali BNL d’Italia second-round match on Tuesday 13 May: Svitolina has played just one match on clay after a knee injury and could be vulnerable to former world no. 1 Azarenka

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