Victoria Azarenka has won 15 of her last 16 matches – will Garbine Muguruza be the one to stop her…
Victoria Azarenka has won 15 of her last 16 matches – will Garbine Muguruza be the one to stop her Rome run in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarterfinals?
Azarenka vs Muguruza is live from Rome on Saturday 19 September, 2pm local/1pm BST
US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka last made it past the quarterfinals in Rome in 2013, when she went all the way to the final – and Azarenka has been playing like it’s 2013 again in the past few weeks as the former world no. 1 racks up victories during a splendid resurgence.
WTA Rome 2020: Find out tournament information for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and how to stream ATP Rome matches live
Garbine Muguruza, like Azarenka a two-time Grand Slam champion and former world no. 1, is trying to pull out of a slump herself in 2020: The Australian Open finalist is out to reach her third semifinal of the season and her third at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, but she’ll have to beat Azarenka to do it.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
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Azarenka vs Muguruza: Head-to-head
Victoria Azarenka technically leads the head-to-head with Garbine Muguruza 2-1, but only one of their matches has actually been completed: A 7-6(6), 7-6(4) victory for Azarenka in Miami back in 2016.
Two subsequent meetings ended in retirements, one from Azarenka in the Monterrey final in 2019, one from Muguruza at this same tournament last year.
Azarenka vs Muguruza: Preview
Despite many confident predictions that she would pull out of Rome altogether after a stunning month on the US swing saw her win the Western & Southern Open and reach the final of the US Open, Victoria Azarenka is into the quarterfinals at the Foro Italico, and she’s barely skipped a beat despite having to make a quick transition between continents and surfaces.
After beating Venus Williams in the first round, Azarenka delivered one of the most stunning beatdowns you’ll ever see to Sofia Kenin, beating the flailing Australian Open champion 6-0, 6-0 to book her place in the last 16. Against Daria Kasatkina on Friday, it seemed that Azarenka might be tested to her limits and perhaps beyond, with the Russian – a former top-10 player just showing signs of pulling out of a prolonged slump – led Azarenka by a break twice in the first set and even served for it before being taken to a tie-break. Unfortunately, two points into that tie-break, Kasatkina took a bad tumble, injuring her ankle, and was forced to retire.
Azarenka was the picture of sportsmanship, immediately fetching a bag of ice for her stricken opponent, helping Kasatkina to her chair, then going above and beyond to try to comfort the weeping Russian. It’s not the way that she would have liked to reach the quarterfinals – but she’s here.
The world no. 14 last made it past the quarterfinals in Rome in 2013, the same year she made her last Grand Slam final before this year’s US Open. Standing in her way is Muguruza, a two-time Internazionali BNL d’Italia semifinalist and, like Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam champion – except that unlike Azarenka, one of Muguruza’s two majors came on clay at the French Open.
Muguruza’s runner-up finish to Kenin at the Australian Open in January was a welcome sign of life from the Spanish player, who had been playing sub-par tennis for a while, but her return to action post-shutdown didn’t go to plan – injury kept her from playing ‘Cincinnati’, and then she became the first high-profile victim of Tsvetana Pironkova’s upset run in the second round of the US Open.
On clay this week, though, Muguruza has started to look formidable, beating Sloane Stephens and 2019 runner-up Johanna Konta in straight sets on either side of winning a long, intense tussle with Coco Gauff.
The head-to-head between Azarenka and Muguruza is not much help here: Their only completed match was in 2016, a win in two tie-breaks for Azarenka. The Belarusian is on incredible form, but she also must have fatigue issues which will at some point kick in; clay is a better surface for Muguruza. Game-wise they’re well-matched: Muguruza has a bigger serve, Azarenka a better return; Muguruza is a slightly more explosive hitter, Azarenka a better mover; both women are more about taking the ball early than anything else. Purely because of her comfort level on this surface, I think Muguruza will win, but it’s going to be tight.
Azarenka vs Muguruza: Prediction
Muguruza to win