Australian Open: Top seed Victoria Azarenka struggles in opening match
Last Updated: 14/01/14 5:34am
Victoria Azarenka celebrates beating Johanna Larsson
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.
Caroline Wozniacki was in sizzling form
"But I feel pretty good. Actually, I felt better as the match was going on than in the beginning."
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 Alize Cornet saw Polona Hercog retire hurt after the opening game of the match.