Victoria Azarenka Wins First Round of Australian Open


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Victoria Azarenka is off to a good start in her quest to defend her consecutive Australian Open singles titles (2012 and 2013.)

Azarenka battled long and hard in the dangerous Melbourne heat on Tuesday to advance to the second round. The second-seeded Belarusian tennis player was up against Sweden's Johanna Larsson. Larsson put up an admirable fight in the first set, pushing Azarenka to 6-6.

However, Azarenka won the tie-break 7-2, taking the second set 6-2 in just over 30 minutes.

Of the extended time she spent on the court in dangerously high temperatures, Azarenka said "It would have been nice to get it over quicker ... But it is a win and that's the main thing."

If Azarenka were to take the singles title again this year, it would make her the first woman to win three successive titles in Melbourne since Martina Hingis did so in 1997, 1998, and 1999.

However, Azarenka won her other Grand Slam titles without facing Serena Williams, who was eliminated in both those Australian Opens due to foot injuries.

When asked about the rivalry between her and Williams, Azarenka said "I think everybody is the one to beat here. We have such a high competition right now ... You always have to look for every opponent you play. You cannot look past anybody because everybody is prepared, everybody wants it badly."

Indeed, Larsson proved those words true when she ran Azarenka all over the court on Tuesday.

Azarenka will be joined in the second round by Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki. The tenth-seeded Wozniacki had a much easier time of it on Tuesday, winning 6-0, 6-2 over Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

Wozniacki said it was so hot that when she set a plastic water bottle down on the court, it began to melt.

Temperatures peaked at a dangerous 42.2 degrees Celsius (107.9 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday. Although temperatures over the next few days shouldn't reach quite that high, they're forecasted to remain above the 100-degree mark.

Officials have already implemented two stages of the tournament's heat policy: ice vests are required for all players and women are required to take a 10 minute break between second and third sets.

They said that humidity levels were too low to call for the tournament's more aggressive heat precautions which involve closing the retractable roof over the two main courts and discontinuing play on the outside courts.

Image via Wikimedia Commons