Racquet Reaction

MSG Exhibition: S. Williams d. Azarenka

Monday, March 04, 2013 /by

NEW YORK—As far as exos go, tonight’s between world No. 1 Serena Williams and world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka was more hit than giggle. Yes, Redfoo found his way onto the court during the second set—and struck a pretty good serve, if wide, in the process—and his girlfriend did her part by playing left-handed for a spell.

But when a second all-lefty exchange between Azarenka and Williams drew more silence than noise from the crowd, and Vika’s imitation of Maria Sharapova went largely unnoticed, it was clear that these two could still learn a lot from Mansour Bahrami and tennis’ comedic set.

In a match that featured more breaks of serve than smiles, Williams defended her turf with a 6-4, 6-3 win. She did so despite moving at three-quarter speed in the first set, which should give you an idea of Azarenka’s level in the early going. But the officiating didn’t help Vika’s cause. She was on the wrong end of two line calls in the opening game (I feel confident in saying that as the line was directly in front of me) and was subsequently broken in three of her first four service games. Although Azarenka broke Williams' serve twice herself in that span, she wasn’t able to get back on level terms.

With Azarenka taking a 2-0 lead to start the second set, a 10-point super-tiebreaker appeared to be in the offing, but Williams’ play picked up noticeably. Her backhand matched and then exceeded Azarenka’s in effectiveness for perhaps the first time in the match, and with the serve and forehand already firmly in her favor, the match quickly became devoid of drama.

Perhaps that’s why Azarenka elected to play left-handed (for the first time) at 3-3, but it was still a curious juncture at which to do so—I’m pretty sure it was on a deuce point, as well. The tennis gods were angered at Vika's lack of scoreboard respect, exo or not, and she wouldn’t win another game.

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