Indian Wells, United States: Serena Williams out-gunned Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-3 in an electrifying clash of former world number ones on Friday to reach the third round at Indian Wells.
The two raised the temperature on a cold, windy night in the California desert, trading shots from every corner of the court before Williams wrapped things up after two hours and 17 minutes
She finished it off in style, with a pair of unreturnable serves.
"It was really good for me to kind of fight through that, because literally I had to fight for every point," Williams said.
The display worthy of a final came in the second round thanks to Azarenka's current ranking of 48th in the world -- and the bad luck of the draw.
The first set alone lasted one hour and 13 minutes.
Williams, unable to serve it out at 5-3, was under pressure again at 5-5 but Azarenka was unable to convert five break points. Williams produced three service winners to take a 6-5 lead and broke Azarenka to pocket the set.
"She deserved to win," Azarenka said. "She played better on those important moments. I felt that every game was ad, deuce, ad, deuce. It was all about who was going to take that chance, and she took them a little better today."
While Williams took her record over Azarenka to 18-4, the Belarusian said she would always relish any chance to take on her longtime rival.
"You know, as much as she's the toughest opponent I have ever played in my life, she's my favorite person to play against," Azarenka said. "Those type of challenges always motivate me."
Since their last meeting -- Azarenka's victory in the 2016 Indian Wells final -- both women have become mothers, adding another dimension to their on-court rivalry and off-court friendship.
"We're both moms, and we know how hard it is and how hard it's been for us to come back, starting literally from scratch and fighting our way back," Williams said.