On Friday night, the crowd at Indian Wells had the opportunity to watch multiple Grand Slam champions in action for the 22nd time, with Serena Williams ousting Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-3 after more than two hours for the place in the third round.
It was the 18th win for the American over a great friend and a rival and she had to work hard to earn it, prevailing in one of the most exciting sets on the Tour in the last couple of years. Azarenka created 15 break points and converted only four, losing serve six times to propel Serena into the third round after tremendous battle that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
Serena moved 5-3 up in the second set but there was more drama right around the corner, with Azarenka saving two match points in that ninth game before creating two break chances that could have kept her in the match longer.
She had an enormous opportunity to convert the first although Serena somehow stayed in the game, blasting an ace to save the second and crossing the finish line with a service winner to wrap up this extraordinary clash on the winning side.
After the match, Victoria praised her opponent and took some positive notes from her own game just like she did in Acapulco last week. "From this match, there is a lot more positive that I can take. It was a great two sets of tennis from both players.
You know, unfortunately, this was the second round. I feel like I have been improving from week to week after the Australian Open. You know, I thought I took a pretty good step forward in Acapulco even though I didn't do the results that I wanted.
It's the little pieces, you know. There is nothing big that is missing in my game. It's really about putting those things together. Today I was able to do most of the times that. Sometimes, you know, you play against the best player in history and they are going to push you.
But as I always said, Serena pushes me to play my best tennis. I thought that today was a good match, definitely a lot of high quality. I don't feel there was a loser in this match. You know, she won, she deserved to win after playing better on those important moments.
I thought that every game was advantage, deuce, advantage, deuce. It was all about who was going to take that chance, and she took them a little better today. As much as she's the toughest opponent I have ever played in my life, she's my favorite person to play against.
I feel that, for me, why I still play is because I enjoy the challenges. If it's easy, if it's boring, I don't want to play. But those type of challenges always motivates me. Serena is one of those players that I always look forward to play.
Again, maybe not in the second round, but my draws have been amazing my whole career. There is no surprise about that."