Azarenka loses cool at Madrid Open, Nadal rolls on
MADRID — Victoria Azarenka lost her temper, broke her racket and argued with the chair umpire in an exit Wednesday from the Madrid Open, where she’s been runner-up the last two years.
Losing to Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the second round ended Azarenka’s 18-match winning streak to start the season.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal spoiled Benoit Paire’s 24th birthday by sweeping past the Frenchman 6-3, 6-4. The fifth-ranked Nadal’s hopes of returning to the top four in time for the French Open were boosted by Novak Djokovic’s loss on Tuesday.
Azarenka returned after a two-month layoff because of an ankle injury. She double-faulted five times and got in just over half of her first serves. The 24th-ranked Makarova had 60 percent first-serve accuracy.
The Belarusian berated Alves after picking up a second code violation for smashing her racket in the third set.
“After all you’ve done, how are you still in the game?” Azarenka shouted at the official while on court.
Azarenka said she felt confused by some refereeing decisions.
“I didn’t understand what happened, what I did,” she said. “I was very sure that I didn’t have a code violation, that’s why I broke my racket.”
Makarova rallied from 3-1 down in the third set, winning five straight games.
“We played many times before and I didn’t win so much,” Makarova said. “It was a really tough first set for me. When I came out, I wasn’t playing as well as I wanted to. Then I got a little bit angry and it was really tough to change my game and my mentality.”
But she credits recent strong Fed Cup play on clay for helping her win. Makarova and Elena Vesnina won the decisive doubles match last month to lift Russia past Slovakia 3-2 and reach the Fed Cup final in November.
“I think that gave me a little bit more confidence on clay,” she said. “I really enjoy these clay courts because it’s a little bit faster here. I just tried to move her around more in the second and third sets and it worked.”
The third-ranked Azarenka tried to explain the loss, while praising Makarova.
“I have to give Ekaterina credit, she played really well,” Azarenka said. “I played more against myself, trying to prove to myself certain things, more than I was focusing on my opponent.”
Azarenka, who missed Indian Wells and the Miami Open in March because of the ankle injury, said she still felt rusty. She’s looking forward to another clay tournament — Rome — before heading to Roland Garros.
“I have been making mistakes,” she said. “But that’s what comes after not playing for a long time. I still have another tournament before the French Open to compete in.”
Nadal landed nearly 80 percent of his first serves and athletically recovered some near winners in a match that Paire stretched to nearly 90 minutes.
“It was a tough game as he is an awkward opponent because he doesn’t allow you to build up a rhythm,” Nadal said. “I had a difficult time with the break point in the second set, I don’t know how I saved it … by miracle, I think.”
Nadal commented on Djokovic’s early ouster by Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
“Novak has had a fantastic year but played against a very young player who has been doing very well, and against whom I, too, was about to lose in Monte Carlo,” Nadal said. “With this level of tennis, you can depart at any time in a tournament.”
Fourth-seeded David Ferrer eased past Denis Istomin of Russia 7-5, 6-2 and next faces Tommy Haas.
“With Tommy Haas it’s going to be a very tough match,” Ferrer said. “We played in Miami and went to three sets. Tomorrow I will have to return very well because he is a player that serves pretty good.”
Also, seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France beat Robin Haase of the Netherlands 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2), sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic got past Jerzy
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