Azarenka overcomes slow start to upset holder Bartoli

Stanford: Victoria Azarenka overcame a slow start to upset holder Marion Bartoli 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Stanford Classic on Friday.

Top seed Samantha Stosur of Australia, however, managed to squeak through in a 7-5 3-6 6-3 victory over Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium.

While the fourth seeded Bartoli was seeded higher than the eighth-seeded Azarenka, the 20-year-old Belarussian had beaten the Frenchwoman in their three previous meetings so the outcome was not a surprise.

Bartoli got off to a terrific start, powering her groundstrokes to the corners and gaining a 6-1, 3-1 lead.

But after Azarenka held in a difficult game to reach 3-2, the tide completely turned and she reeled off seven straight games with a heady and forceful attack.

Bartoli tried to regain control late in the third set, but Azarenka mixed deft drop shots with laser-like backhands and broke Bartoli to win the match on a forehand error.

Later, Bartoli told reporters that Azarenka’s loud grunts distracted her.

“It’s difficult to play against those kinds of players,” Bartoli said. “It’s fine to grunt sometimes when you make an effort, but sometimes it’s just so loud.

“It’s hard to focus on the other side of the net. But it’s not something I can get bothered by, because otherwise I would lose my concentration so much.

“I just need to forget about it, but it’s hard.”

Azarenka said that she has been grunting since she began to play tennis and she is not the only player who can be distracting.

She said how Bartoli prepares herself to return serve can also be problematic.

“A lot of things can distract people,” Azarenka said. “When someone is (shaking her racket up and down) when you are serving can also be distracting.

“I don’t pay attention. That’s the way I play and I cannot change it.”

Azarenka will now face Stosur, who had to come back from an early break in the third set to repel the athletic Wickmayer.

“It was tough from the first game to the end,” Stosur said. “I got a little flat in the second set.

“When I was down 2-0 down in the third, and I finally started to pick it up and stayed away from playing into her patterns.”

Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland also moved ahead by dispatching Maria Kirilenko of Russia 7-5 6-0. She will play the winner of the match between second seed Elena Dementieva and fifth seed Maria Sharapova.

Bureau Report