From 5-2 up in the third set against Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina somehow couldn’t must another game, missing two match points and dropping five straight games to lose 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in rainy Rome second round encounter.
Svitolina was the 2-time defending champion who had won her last 10 matches in Rome, but now had lost her last four matches on the tour since beating Marketa Vondrousova at Indian Wells. Though she’s also been dealing with a knee injury.
“It was such a dramatic match – it was a lot of breaks and stuff with the rain, and that was quite difficult to deal with,” Azarenka said. “But I’m happy I was able to just block it out, play my game, survive the match point, and then pick it up from there to play great tennis.
“Overall it was a high quality match. I’m happy with my performance, and I’m happy to be through and I’ll try to get better in the tournament.”
Azarenka is now 3-0 against the Ukrainian. She’ll now get the Garbine Muguruza-Danielle Collins winner on Thursday.
“Right now I’m looking at the overall big picture and trying to improve every aspect of my game,” Azarenka said.
“Obviously, movement is very important on clay court, and I feel like I’m getting better and more accustomed to clay. Especially this year, I feel a lot more at ease on clay. I’m happy with that.”
Collins advanced when Caroline Wozniacki retired for a second straight week due to left calf issue after dropping the first set in a breaker.
“Obviously, I feel for Caroline, what she’s going through with her medical condition and her injuries,” Collins said. “It’s never fun to go out there and play against somebody that’s hurt, and dealing with that kind of pain. I was happy with the way that I played, but also, it’s just not a fun situation.”
No. 9 seed Aryna Sabalenka all was upset by Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-4. The Belarussian has now lost four of her last five matches.
Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic, Carla Suarez Navarro and Ash Barty were winners.
But the big news on the day was the withdrawal of Serena Williams. The 37-year-old was slated to resume her rivalry Wednesday against sister Venus but her left knee, which has been a problem the last few months, is not 100%.
Tomorrow, Naomi Osaka opens against Dominika Cibulkova. Madrid champ Kiki Bertens battles young American teen Amanda Anisimova and Madison Keys, Petra Kivtova and Muguruza are in action.
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