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Azarenka maintains mastery of Stosur


Victoria Azarenka was pumped up after beating Samantha Stosur in round-robin play. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

ISTANBUL -- Matchups matter in tennis. That's not breaking news, obviously, but it's especially the case with a player whose game is built on big weapons. If an opponent takes away those weapons, the player is reduced to nothing. It's like having to play with one hand tied behind your back. It's going to get ugly.

Ugly is the only way to describe Samantha Stosur's performance Wednesday against Victoria Azarenka, who continued her dominance of the Aussie with a 6-2, 6-2 victory at the WTA Championships. Azarenka improved to 5-0 against Stosur and won her opening match in the White Group here. Stosur, who on Tuesday beat Maria Sharapova for the first time in 10 meetings, fell to 1-1 in round-robin play.

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"I don't feel like I did anything," Stosur said. "I just kind of got pushed around the court, and eventually was made to make an error or she'd hit a winner."

Stosur didn't go to bed until 2 a.m. Wednesday after playing the last match of Tuesday's session, but that's not much of an excuse with a 5 p.m. start. She may have been suffering more of an emotional hangover than a physical one after finally defeating Sharapova. Missing easy volleys (she was 5-for-12 at the net) and spraying the ball every which way for 26 unforced errors to 11 winners, Stosur needed Azarenka to have an off day to have a shot. Azarenka wasn't in the mood for a bad day. She played clean, aggressive tennis, proving again that her strengths go directly at Stosur's weaknesses.

Stosur's game, built on the formidable 1-2 punch of her kick serve and forehand, is virtually nonexistent against Azarenka. The Belarusian handles the kick and pace better than anyone and had no trouble putting Stosur into a neutral or defensive position time and time again on her serve. Azarenka won 55 percent of the points on Stosur's second serve. As for weaknesses, Stosur's improved but she's still vulnerable on the backhand and her movement is subpar for an elite player. Put it all together, and if you can find someone who returns her kick serve well and grabs control of the rally by taking the ball early and pinning Stosur to her backhand side, well, you've built a Stosur-beating prototype.

"It was important to really not give her a chance to attack," Azarenka said, "because if she comes up with this big, firing forehand, it's really difficult to stay in the match."

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