“That will be a big test for me,” Nadal said. “Today I know I can play on clay; that’s a very important thing to know for me.”
This was the first event for Williams and Azarenka since they faced off in the Qatar Open final Feb. 17. Azarenka won that one 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 to snap a 10-match losing streak against Williams, which included the U.S. Open final.
Both looked rusty Monday, with little of the electricity of their three-set thriller a few miles away at Flushing Meadows in September.
They finally started showing some shot-making in the eighth game, when Azarenka’s lob landed on the baseline, drawing applause from the American. Williams, who hurt her ankle and back at the Australian Open, ran all the way into the barrier at the front of the stands to chase down a shot later in the game.
Down triple break point in the fourth game of the second set, Williams suddenly regained her trademark big serve to rally back. Azarenka, who has yet to lose an official match this year while defending her Aussie title, was broken six times in 10 service games.
Facing break point at 3-3, she seemed to realize it was time to dispense with the serious tennis. Azarenka called her No. 1 fan, pop star Redfoo, onto the court to take over for a point. He showed good pace if not accuracy on his serve.
“He needs to practice before his exhibition,” Azarenka joked later.