Azarenka outlasts Barthel at Indian Wells

Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka struggled to get through the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday, beating Germany’s Mona Barthel 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6).

”That’s exactly what it was, survival,” said Azarenka, the Australian Open champion who has won three tournaments this year and is unbeaten in 18 matches.

”But it’s a good feeling also to come after a match like this with a win. I got through. I think that’s a good sign. To win when you’re not playing your best is more joyful.”

Azarenka easily beat Barthel in their two previous matches. It started that way, too, with Azarenka leading 6-4, 5-1. But Barthel rallied to take a 6-5 lead, won the final three points of the tiebreaker, and raced to a 4-1 lead in the third set with the help of three straight double faults that cost Azarenka a service game.

This time, Azarenka fought back. She went from three games down to being up 6-5 and battled long and hard enough to finally win the tiebreaker and the match on two errant backhands by the 21-year-old Barthel.

”I think I won this match mentally more than physically or tactically or whatever,” said Azarenka, who will face Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round. ”That was really what brought me a win today, my fighting spirit `til the last moment.”

Until Azarenka escaped, the story of the day had been the play of two young American women.

America’s Jamie Hampton, a wild-card entry who last week moved into the top 100 in the rankings for the first time (she’s No. 99), opened the day’s activity on Stadium Court with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over 12th-seeded Jelena Jankovic, the Serb who spent 18 weeks at No. 1 in 2008.

A few minutes later, Christina McHale, at No. 32 the only U.S. player seeded in the event, beat Elena Vesnina of Russia, 6-3, 7-5, to set up a third-round match against Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic in the late match.

Hampton will face Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia in the third round. Gajdosova upset No. 22 seed Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Nineteen-year-old American Denis Kudla also won on the men’s side, beating Germany’s Tobias Kamke 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Kamke was a last-minute fill-in when Dmitry Tursunov withdrew because of a wrist injury.

No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Rafael Nadal and American stars Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish didn’t play singles. They played doubles. Djokovic was first, and he and Viktor Troicki of Serbia lost to Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez of Spain, 7-5, 7-5.

Roddick and Fish lost to Florian Mayer of Germany and Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, 6-4, 1-6, (10-8), but Nadal and Marc Lopez beat the third-seeded team of Michael Llorda of France and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia, 6-4, 6-4.