News & Media

Vintage Vika: Azarenka starts strong at Brisbane International 2024  

2 January 2024, by Vivienne Christie

Fifteen years since Victoria Azarenka claimed the inaugural Brisbane International women’s title, and eight years since she triumphed again in 2016, the No.8 seed is as competitive at Pat Rafter Arena as ever.

On Tuesday, the 32-year-old Azarenka returned to a favourite setting to claim victory over Anna Kalinskaya and progress to the 2024 third round.

Achieving her 6-1 7-6(8) victory in two hours and 12 minutes, Azarenka staved off a second-set challenge from Kalinskaya, who’d claimed an upset victory in their only other match (at 2023 Charleston) at WTA level.

“I felt like we both played really well. She was going for it,” she commented of their latest battle at Brisbane International 2024.

“I think (in the) first set, I was playing really well, I wasn’t letting her into the game and I felt like she picked up her game, started to go for it and be more aggressive.”

> READ: Azarenka in a happy, and influential, place in Brisbane

The 22nd-ranked Azarenka established early authority against Kalinskaya, taking a 2-0 lead and saving two break points as she won five straight games.

But after she was treated for an injury, Kalinskaya became steadily more competitive. She saved six set points before Azarenka took the first set.

The second set initially followed a similar pattern, Azarenka immediately breaking the Kalinskaya serve and maintaining her lead until the 10th game.

A blip came as Azarenka surrendered a match point, then the first of the six break points she’d faced, as she served for the match.

There was another chance to serve out the match for a fiercely determined Azarenka, who broke for a fourth time but couldn’t consolidate. The outcome was eventually determined by a tense tiebreak, in which a brave Kalinskaya saved three further match points.

Having finally secured victory when Kalinskaya netted a service return, Azarenka was pleased with the test.

“First matches (of the season) are never easy to close out,” she noted. “I’m actually glad that I was able to have that momentum shift … you can’t recreate (that challenge) in practice.

“(There are) definitely a few things to work on but I’m pretty happy with a first win.”

Azarenka was equally delighted to glimpse her former doubles partner, Ash Barty, in the crowd at Brisbane and in a further show of her love for this country, spoke fondly of the major-winning Australian.

“I feel like she has brought so much light to tennis in Australia, so much more excitement,” Azarenka smiled. “So I feel like we owe it to her to continue to improve tennis in Australia and put on a good show.”

> BUY NOW: Tickets for Brisbane International 2024