Victoria Azarenka makes easy progress at the French Open


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The Independent Online

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 coming to terms this morning with 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.

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."

Wozniak and Azarenka have known each other since juniors, and the top seed will certainly not be underestimating her next opponent, who defeated 31st seed Zheng Jie 6-2 6-4 today.

"She's a very difficult opponent," said Azarenka. "I know she has had big wins in her career. We haven't played in a while. I definitely have to come up with good tennis in my next round."

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.

Stosur said: "We seem to have run into each other in the third round quite often, either at grand slams or the other big tournaments. I guess it's just the way that the draws and the seeds keep falling.

"Nadia is definitely a player where you've got to be ready. She can play great, she can have a huge serve, and she's been at the top of the game before. So you've got to be ready for her to be on, and if she's not, then that's a bonus."

Seeds Dominika Cibulkova, Sara Errani and Anabel Medina Garrigues also had comfortable wins today.

wo 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 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.

"Even though I lost some matches I should have won or I should have put myself in a better position, I still felt always like I was improving with each week. That gives me confidence.

"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 on to my back any more."

Mathilde Johansson, cheered on by her home crowd, ousted 24th seed Petra Cetkovska 7-6 (7/1) 6-2, while 20th seed Lucie Safarova crashed out 6-4 7-5 to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

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.