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Venus Williams vs Azarenka WTA Auckland live streaming, preview and tips - Venus and Azarenka clash for the first time since 2015 on first day of 2019

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 31 Dec 2018
  • Venus Williams vs Victoria Azarenka is live from Auckland at 4.00pm local time on Tuesday (3.00am GMT)
  • Venus leads their head-to-head 4-2, but Azarenka has won their last two meetings
Venus Williams (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

It doesn’t get much better than this to launch a new year of women’s tennis, with Grand Slam champions and former World No. 1s Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka squaring off in a blockbuster showdown in the opening round of the ASB Classic in Auckland on Tuesday.

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2019 isn’t even a day old and we’ve already been served up a mouth-watering encounter at the ASB Classic in Auckland as Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka - two of the most successful women’s players since the turn of the century - clash in the first round.

Both Venus and Azarenka are multiple Grand Slam champions and have been ranked No. 1 in the world, but they are also both far away from the top of the tennis mountain for different reasons, ending their 2018 campaigns out of the top 30 - and in Azarenka’s case, top 50.

Venus enjoyed an extraordinary resurgence in 2017 as she made finals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and season-ending WTA Finals Singapore to return to the top five in the rankings, but the 38-year-old couldn’t repeat those results in 2018, making just one semi-final for the season - and that came at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where she beat returning sister Serena before going down to rising star Daria Kasatkina in a three-set classic. Venus would go on to reach the quarter-finals of Miami but would only compete in seven more tournaments for the year - and she would advance to just one more quarter-final (San Jose).

Still without a singles title of any description since claiming the Kaohsiung silverware back in February of 2016, you get the feeling that time is running out for Venus if she wants to lift a trophy on the WTA Tour again - at least if her 2018 season was any indication. However, she does have fond memories of Auckland, taking home the ASB Classic title in 2015, beating top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Venus hasn’t had much luck in Auckland since that triumph though, losing in the opening round to Daria Kasatkina in 2016 and in the second round to Naomi Osaka in 2017.

Victoria Azarenka (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, Azarenka arrives in Auckland to launch her new season with a new coach in her team, with the former No. 1 linking back up with Wim Fissette. The Belgian coach has worked with many top WTA stars, including Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep, Konta and Angelique Kerber, the latter of whom he coached back to the top two and the Wimbledon title in 2018. Azarenka and Fissette previously worked together from February 2015 until May 2016, a period that saw Azarenka win the Sunshine Double (Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back), but their relationship ended when she grew pregnant.


Azarenka gave birth to her first child at the end of 2016 and returned to the tour in June 2017, but due to a complicated custody battle with her ex-partner, she was basically out of action until March 2018. Azarenka returned with a bang at the Miami Open, beating Madison Keys and Karolina Pliskova to reach the semi-finals, but that would be the only time she made the semis of a tournament all season, with her next best results for the remainder of 2018 being quarter-finals in San Jose and Tokyo, while she also made the third round of the U.S. Open.

While it wasn’t the best of seasons, the 29-year-old still managed to climb from outside the top 200 to a year-end ranking of No. 51, placing her in a decent position to force her way back into the upper echelons of women’s tennis in 2019. The chance is there for Azarenka to make significant gains in January after she missed this part of the season last year due to her custody battle.

The pair have played six times before, with Venus leading their head-to-head 4-2 - but this will be their first meeting since 2015. Venus won their first four encounters in straight sets, but Azarenka proceeded to take their next two. However, both players are in a completely different stage of their careers today, and this being their first official match of the season only makes the outcome all the more difficult to predict. I do think Azarenka is the slight favourite - she naturally has more upside left in her career and was beginning to turn around their head-to-head before she left the tour after 2015. If she can control her sometimes shaky serve and execute her punishing groundstrokes in the windy Auckland conditions, then Azarenka will put herself in a strong position to advance into the second round.


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Venus Williams vs Azarenka WTA Auckland live streaming, preview and tips - Venus and Azarenka clash for the first time since 2015 on first day of 2019

It doesn’t get much better than this to launch a new year of women’s tennis, with Grand Slam champions and former World No. 1s Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka squaring off in a blockbuster showdown in the opening round of the ASB Classic in Auckland on Tuesday.

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