Azarenka eases into 3rd round
New York - World No 1 Victoria Azarenka advanced to the third round of the US Open on Wednesday by defeating Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-2 in only 65 minutes at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Reigning Australian Open champion Azarenka, who has reached the last eight in every Grand Slam event except the US Open, will next face Chinese 28th seed Zheng Jie, who beat Slovakian qualifier Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-1.
The 23-year-old from Belarus, whose 26-match win streak to begin the season was the best women's start since 1997, seeks her 13th career title and fifth trophy of the year on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
"I would love to play for the title," Azarenka said. "It's a long way. It's just the second round now."
Trying to break a trend that has seen women's top seeds fail to take titles at the past seven Grand Slams, Azarenka could be dethroned from the top ranking by Agnieszka Radwanska or Maria Sharapova if she fails to make the final.
Azarenka, who took a singles bronze medal at the London Olympics, broke 133rd-ranked Flipkens in the third and seventh games and held to claim the first set in 27 minutes.
Azarenka broke again in the fifth and seventh game of the second set and held serve to close out the match, pumping her right fist in celebration after a winner on match point after her 50th victory of the season.
"I'm proud of everything I have achieved this season," she said. "It has been a great year."
Azarenka handled a morning curtain call as well as she had a late-night match on day one.
"It just depends on how I sleep," she said. "The first match was late at night. I adjusted pretty good. It doesn't matter what time I play. It matters how well I play on the court."
Russian 19th seed Nadia Petrova reached the third round in only 57 minutes with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Romania's Simona Halep.
Next for Petrova will be either Czech 15th seed Lucie Safarova or Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak.
And US wildcard Mallory Burdette booked her place in the third round with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Czech Lucie Hradecka. She could face Sharapova next.
Three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters, playing her farewell event, risks her 22-match US Open win streak against Britain's Laura Robson in another second-round match.
Hard-serving John Isner, the fortnight's top hope to end a nine-year US men's Grand Slam title drought as the ninth seed, will begin his quest against Belgian Xavier Malisse.
And third seeds Sharapova and Andy Murray of Britain take the court in night matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Olympic champion Murray trying to become the first man into the third round at the Grand Slam event.