Indian Wells throwback: Serena defeats Azarenka on Int’l Women’s Day

Indian Wells throwback: Serena defeats Azarenka on Int’l Women’s Day

Facing off for the first time as mothers, Serena would defeat longtime rival Azarenka in this blockbuster second-rounder.

With the cancellation of the 2020 BNP Paribas Open, Tennis Channel is re-airing matches from previous Indian Wells tournaments. This match can be seen on Friday, March 13.


It was the talk of the tournament. Two of the game’s great champions, facing off in a blockbuster second-rounder and for the first time as mothers—fittingly, on International Women’s Day. Their performance would do well to highlight the often unsung intensity and artistry of women’s sport. The 7-5, 6-3 scoreline indicates a straight-set Serena win, but this match was far from ordinary. 

Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open

It was a cold and windy night in the Southern California desert, and no one really knew what to expect from either player. Azarenka was coming back from injury, but starting to round into form. She lost a tight three-setter to Sofia Kenin in the Acapulco quarterfinals a week before.

Serena had played just one event prior to the tournament, the Australian Open. Despite the question marks surrounding their form, the two champions brought out the best in each other, giving the bundled-up crowd a masterclass in power tennis. 

The ball striking could not have been more crisp. Both players boasted positive winner-to-error ratios. Seemingly every point ended with a clean winner. In the first set, all but two service games went to deuce. The 23-time Grand Slam champion and her former No. 1-ranked opponent had given the fans everything they could ask for, and more. 

Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open

This may have been the last match Serena and Azarenka will ever play against each other. If true, it was a fitting finale.

“I truly love her, she’s a really good friend,” Serena said of Azarenka after the match. “She’s a fellow mom and she’s a former No. 1 just like me. It’s hard to play someone you’re so close with but it’s also really invigorating and cool.”

So often overhyped matchups fail to deliver. This was not one of them.