Azarenka regrouped in a topsy-turvy decider, racing to a 3-1 lead as she improved her serve and forced her opponent into making mistakes with powerful groundstrokes. Having squandered a first match point at 5-2, Azarenka converted the second match point as she served at 5-3.
Playing in her 14th Roland-Garros, Azarenka said she enjoyed competing more than ever before, even though life in the Covid bubble during tournaments can be tough.
“I feel like I'm motivated more than I was before,” she said. “I feel happy. I feel like I'm learning more, and I'm pushing my own potential.”
Azarenka has not been beyond the third round in Paris since a run to the semi-final in 2013. Could this be her year?
“I always feel like I can do something at any tournament,” Azarenka said. “I always believe in myself. I am always going to push myself to the limit.”
Up next, the talented Danish teenager Clara Tauson, who upset the in-form Jennifer Brady of the US in the first round of Roland-Garros last year.
“Not to be disrespectful to a player, but I don't really know her,” said Azarenka. “I have not really seen her play, so it's going to be a bit of homework for me to do.”