(Reuters) – Former world number one Victoria Azarenka marked her return to the WTA Tour by snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Japan’s Risa Ozaki at the Mallorca Open on Wednesday.
Azarenka, who gave birth to son Leo in December and had not played a competitive match since last year’s French Open, saved three match points to win a first-round clash 6-3 4-6 7-6(7).
World number 74 Ozaki had been two breaks ahead in the third set and was serving at 5-4 when darkness descended on the Santa Ponsa lawns on Tuesday.
On the resumption, the 27-year-old Azarenka broke serve but immediately dropped her own before Ozaki moved 40-0 ahead to get to within a point of a victory.
But Belarussian Azarenka, showing her trademark grit, clawed her way back from the brink and despite trailing 5-3 in the tiebreak sealed a remarkable victory with a backhand winner.
“I’m still trying to find my range but mentally, I was there for every point. That and the experience helped me through, even at 40-0 down, I was trying to find my way out of it,” wildcard Azarenka, who next plays Croatian youngster Ana Konjuh, said.
“I wouldn’t say I had the best preparation coming to this tournament, but mentally, it’s better to go through this kind of a match.”
Top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia was thrashed in the second round by Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-1 6-2.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Gareth Jones and Ed Osmond)