WATCH: Azarenka solved rival Kvitova in just under two hours in two tight sets in Indian Wells.

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Victoria Azarenka steeled past rival No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova, 7-5, 6-4, to reach the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open for the first time in five years, booking an all-Belarusian clash with an on-fire Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

“It’s no surprises, which sometimes makes it more difficult because your opponent knows your game well and I know hers,” she said on court after the match. “Against Petra, I know it’s always going to be tough because she’s a big hitter with that lefty serve, something we don’t have much of.”

The two-time California desert champion, seeded No. 27, snapped another streak by scoring a first win over the former Wimbledon champion since 2015, edging through two tight sets under the Court 2 stadium lights.

“It’s all about that adaptation and I knew I had to hang in there and be aggressive; she likes to take the ball in control, so I was trying to break that.”

Azarenka has largely struggled to replicate the 2020 summer surge that took her to the Western & Southern Open title and US Open final, reaching just two tour semifinals and falling before the quarterfinals of all four majors. Those results did little to dampen the crowd support for the two-time Australian Open champion, who acknowledged the fans after the match.

“It’s really interesting because sometimes we play without fans, so to come here and really feel like home. I’m not from here but you guys make it so special. I have such great memories here and it’s great to support the sport in such a difficult time.”

About five years ago, I didn’t have that many players on tour from my country, and to see the development with the girls and even some of the boys, I think we have about five or six player sin the Top 100. It’s amazing to see how much tennis has developed from such a small country without many resources. I’m very proud of that. Victoria Azarenka

Advancing into the third round via retirement over Magda Linette, Azarenka renewed an intriguing rivalry with Kvitova, whom she’s played just twice since a seminal 2011 season saw them face off three times in Madrid, Wimbledon, and the WTA Finals in Istanbul.

Kvitova has been similarly up and down since capturing her 28th career WTA title in Doha earlier in the season, making two WTA 1000 quarterfinals and recently falling out of the Top 10.

Evenly match as the night session encounter got underway, the pair exchanged six straight breaks to, even as Kvitova took a brief medical timeout to address a thigh injury. From 4-5 down, Azarenka responded with a crucial service break to reel off the next three games, saving three break points to serve out the first set.

The second set played out similarly as Kvitova consistently battled from a break down to keep the match on level terms. Azarenka’s return proved too strong when it mattered most as the former world No. 1 earned one last break to edge over the finish line in one hour and 49 minutes.

In all, Azarenka played the cleaner match, striking 25 winners to 18 unforced errors, just short of Kvitova’s 29-26 differential, and emerged with the extra break in each set to put her into the round of 16, where her countrywoman awaits.

“About five years ago, I didn’t have that many players on tour from my country, and to see the development with the girls and even some of the boys, I think we have about five or six player sin the Top 100. It’s amazing to see how much tennis has developed from such a small country without many resources. I’m very proud of that.”

Sasnovich backed up her win over US Open champion Emma Raducanu with another stunner over former Indian Wells winner Simona Halep, joking on court that she had already booked a flight out of Indian Wells, anticipating a loss. The two will be facing off in singles for the first time, though they’ve been across the net in doubles in the past.