Azarenka pleased with improvement as Bartoli crashes out

Azarenka pleased with improvement as Bartoli crashes out

Victoria Azarenka had some sympathy for Serena Williams after banishing memories of her own first-round struggles at the French Open by breezing into round three.

Roland Garros was still buzzing today from Virginie Razzano’s stunning victory over the title favourite, handing Williams her first ever defeat in the opening round of a grand slam.

That came a day after world number one Azarenka almost made her own first-round exit, the 22-year-old recovering from a set and 4-0 down against Alberta Brianti.

Things were much more comfortable today for Azarenka, who saw off German qualifier Dinah Pfizenmaier 6-1 6-1 to set up a third-round meeting with Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak, a 6-2 6-4 winner over 31st seed Zheng Jie.

The Belarusian said: “The first round is never easy. And you have to give a lot of credit to Virginie. She showed some exceptional tennis, that’s for sure.

“I think in the women’s game you have to be really ready right from the first match. That’s how I have felt for the last few years, that every match is going to be difficult right from the beginning. There are no easy ones.”

Azarenka was understandably much happier with her performance today, saying: “It was a different game.

“I didn’t really know my opponent today and it took me the first few games to understand what she does and what kind of game she plays, to adjust a little bit, but after a few games I started to find a better rhythm. I definitely played much better today.”

There was another significant upset in the women’s draw, although not quite on the Williams scale, with eighth seed and home favourite Marion Bartoli crashing out.

The Frenchwoman, who reached the semi-finals last year, looked to have recovered after going a set and a break down to Petra Martic, but it was the Croatian who edged the decider to triumph 6-2 3-6 6-3 and make the third round at a grand slam for the first time.

Sixth seed and 2010 finalist Sam Stosur beat American youngster Irina Falconi 6-1 6-4 and next faces 27th seed Nadia Petrova, a 6-3 6-3 winner over Chanelle Scheepers today.

The pair met at the same stage of the US Open last year in an epic lasting three hours and 16 minutes, the longest women’s match at Flushing Meadows in the tie-break era.

Two former champions reached the third round today, Ana Ivanovic breezing past Shahar Peer 6-2 6-2, while Svetlana Kuznetsova had a tougher time against Chan Yung-jan before coming through 6-4 7-6 (7/4).

Ivanovic has spent the four years since winning her only grand slam title trying and failing to hit the same heights, but she is optimistic she is now on the right track.

The Serbian, seeded 13th at Roland Garros, said: “What makes me really happy is that I’ve been playing really consistently.

“Now I’m starting to play a lot freer and enjoying the competition and building points. Obviously coming back to clay is always nice because I feel very comfortable on it.

“I actually started to enjoy the process, and that’s what changed probably. That’s been the hardest part. Acceptance that I’ll make mistakes. Acceptance that I will have a good day, I will have a bad day.

“Unfortunately in this sport it’s always up and down and very emotional. But just to be at peace with myself and to have goals set for myself in my head, that made the big difference. I don’t put this outside pressure so much onto my back any more.”

Ten American women reached the second round but 19-year-old Sloane Stephens became the first to make the third with a crushing 6-1 6-1 victory over countrywoman Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Seeds Dominika Cibulkova, Sara Errani and Anabel Medina Garrigues also had comfortable wins today but Mathilde Johansson delighted the French crowd by ousting Petra Cetkovska while Lucie Safarova lost to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

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