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Indian Wells Digest - Friday

Victoria Azarenka in Indian Wells
by Alexandra Willis
Saturday 10 March 2012

Victoria Azarenka survived her first real test since taking over the mantle of world No.1 after her maiden Grand Slam win in Australia, as she was forced to dig extremely deep to beat Mona Barthel of Germany, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Azarenka, who hasn't lost a match yet in the 18 she's played in 2012, cleaning up in Sydney, Melbourne and then Doha, was cruising along at a set and 5-1, when Barthel, who sprung to prominence by winning the Hobart title ahead of the Australian Open, suddenly started beating her at her own game.

Punishing Azarenka's second serve, and displaying beautiful rhythm and depth on her groundstrokes, the backhand wing in particular, Barthel powered her way back to win the second set in a tie-break.

Taking an immediate break in the decider, and making it a double break, Barthel was within grasping distance of the win of her career. The world No.1 meanwhile resembled the Azarenka of old, hands on her hips in disgust, looking up at the skies in dismay.

Barthel served for the match not once, but twice, only for Azarenka to find her Grand Slam winning form when she needed it most. Barthel saved two match points in the deciding tie-break, but it was ultimately not enough, Azarenka converting for a hard-fought victory.

"It was survival," Azarenka said. "It's a good feeling to come after a match like this with a win, I could have been already beating myself up somewhere in my house after losing. But I'm here, and I got through. That's I think a good sign. To win when you're not playing your best is more joyful."

She also had some words of comfort for Barthel.

"I choked a lot," Azarenka said smiling. "I lost a lot of matches. It was a learning experience, I guess. I'm sure Mona can learn a lot from today's match. It was a great experience. I had bad losses, but I think you learn a little bit more from your losses than from your wins because you look more into details than when you win."

The other world No.1, meanwhile, began his Indian Wells tournament with a loss, albeit only in doubles, but was nonetheless optimistic about his chances of defending his title here in the desert.

Djokovic, who begins against Andrey Golubev on Saturday afternoon, said he was determined not to let last week's loss to Andy Murray in Dubai disrupt his focus.

"I'm putting that aside. I'm moving on," Djokovic said. "I have very, very important tournaments ahead of me that I need to prepare for."

"It's always good to be back in a place where I did so well in the last five years, played finals and won two titles, so it's always a challenge," he said.

"You need to play lots of matches and you play against the best players in the world. The conditions here are suitable to my style of game. I think the courts are a little bit slower, which I like and prefer better. So I'm looking forward to this week."

He also revealed that of all his wins last year, The Championships was the biggest.

"The biggest success was Wimbledon," Djokovic said. "Winning that title, winning the tournament that I always dreamed of winning."

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Ones to watch... Jamie Hampton, who produced the biggest win of her career so far to knock out the 2010 Indian Wells Champion Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic admitted to being jetlagged, and said she felt "lost" out on the court. Well played to Hampton though, one of the many Americans who entered this draw.

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There were straightforward wins for, among others, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Christina McHale, Julia Goerges, Flavia Pennetta, Vania King, Anabel Media Garrigues, Zheng Jie on the women's side, and Marcos Baghdatis, Nikolay Davydenko, Xavier Malisse, David Nalbandian, Carlos Berlocq, Marinko Matesovic on the men's side.

Blast from the past win went to Tommy Haas, who survived a 7-6(9), 6-4 victory over Jarkko Nieminen, while wild card Denis Kudla produced the unexpected with a 2-6, 7-693), 6-4 win against Tobias Kamke, as did Michael Llodra, defeating perennial underachiever Ernests Gulbis in three. Tussles of the day among the ladies were Klara Zakopalova's three-set scorcher over Daniela Hantuchova, and likewise Jarmila Gajdosova's over Yanina Wickmayer.

Rafael Nadal also took to the court for a hero's welcome, playing doubles with his good friend Marc Lopez against Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic.

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Talk of the town on Friday was the aftermath of the Thursday night player party. Indian Wells is known for its services to fun and frolics, and last night's Hollywood-themed bash was no different. With the players arriving in all sorts of classic cars, there were quite a few moves produced on the dancefloor as the evening got going.

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Coming up on Saturday...

Things start to get interesting as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, John Isner, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and more kickstart their Indian Wells campaigns. Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli, and Maria Sharapova are also all in action.

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For all the reports and results from Indian Wells, visit the official BNP Paribas Open website.


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