Azarenka survives Melbourne heat
A review of Tuesday's women's singles action at the Australian Open, including wins for Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.
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Victoria Azarenka began her bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles with an unconvincing first-round victory over Johanna Larsson.
The two-time defending champion was given a major scare in a testing opener, with world No 91 Larsson twice having the opportunity to serve for the first set in the searing heat on Rod Laver Arena.
Yet the second seed, who made 23 unforced errors in the opening set, raised her game each time she was under pressure and kept her hopes of a third consecutive triumph in Melbourne alive after a 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 victory in one hour and 46 minutes.
"Sometimes it can be tricky, you know, to find your range, as it was today a little bit," she said.
"I'll just try to keep the things that have been working before, what I was working on in Brisbane and my off-season and just try to reproduce it more and more and be disciplined with that."
Azarenka admitted that the temperatures - which soared towards 43 Celsius - had an impact on the encounter on Rod Laver Arena.
"It's not easy. I thought they were going to close the roof for the second match, but, I mean, it's okay," said Azarenka, Azarenka, who will now face unseeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
"But I feel pretty good. Actually, I felt better as the match was going on than in the beginning."
Meanwhile Maria Sharapova had to battle to victory against America's Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The 6-3 6-4 scoreline did not really do justice to how hard Sharapova was made to work in the 99 minutes the pair spent on court.
Mattek-Sands, who as usual stood out from the crowd with her purple hair and knee-length black socks, was a tough draw for the third seed and she scrapped all the way to the finish.
Sharapova was playing her first grand slam match since Wimbledon, having missed the US Open with shoulder problems that brought an early end to her season.
The Russian was straight back into the groove, moving into a 4-0 lead despite Mattek-Sands having her chances.
The American stopped the rot with two straight games, but Sharapova held on to her advantage to take the set.
Mattek-Sands fought back in the second set as well to lead 4-3, having trailed 3-1, but Sharapova always looked to have enough to win the games that mattered, and so it proved.
The world number three goes through to face Italy's Karin Knapp, who defeated Paula Ormaechea of Argentina.Caroline Wozniacki produced a sizzling display with a 6-0 6-2 rout of Lourdes Dominguez Lino - and the former world No 1, seeded 10th in Melbourne, has her sights set on winning a maiden grand slam.
"I have achieved so much in my career already," she said. "But at the same time, when I go on court and when I play tournaments I want to win.
"For me right now I try to focus on the Grand Slams. It's tough, it's never easy. You have to win seven matches. There's always going to be some tricky opponents along the way.
"But that's what I'm missing on my resume, so that's obviously what I would like to achieve."
Fellow seeds Jelena Jankovic, Simona Halep, Carla Suarez Navarro, Dominika Cibulkova and Alize Cornet are also through to the second round.
Jankovic, the eighth seed, overcame an early fall to beat Misaki Doi 6-1 6-2, while 11th seed Halep crushed Katarzyna Piter 6-0 6-1.
No 16 seed Suarez Navarro brushed aside Vania King 6-3 6-2, 20th-ranked Cibulkova beat veteran Francesca Schiavone - who was playing in her 54th consecutive grand slam - 6-3 6-4 and 25th seed Cornet saw Polona Hercog retire hurt after the opening game of the match.