Brisbane - Former world number one Victoria
Azarenka demolished Russia's Elena Vesnina at the Brisbane International on
Monday to set up a second-round showdown with top seed Simona Halep.
Azarenka lost the opening two games to the
Russian qualifier before reeling off successive victories to win 6-2, 6-0 at
the Pat Rafter Arena.
After an injury-marred 2014 when she
slipped to 32 in the world, Azarenka has struggled to regain the form that took
her to two Australian Opens and the top ranking.
She finished 2015 at number 22 and went
into the season-opening Brisbane International unseeded.
Azarenka started slowly against Vesnina but
found her range with her groundstrokes and put enormous pressure on her opponent,
who fought bravely but struggled with consistency.
Azarenka, from Belarus, won her maiden WTA
title in Brisbane in 2009 and said she had been keen to open her season in the
"It's such a pleasure to come here and
I couldn't wait to play my first match," she said.
"It's been a while to be out there
playing an actual match. It's been a lot of practice, so I was just happy to go
out there and play and be in front of the crowd and just compete."
Azarenka said she was looking forward to
playing Halep. "I think it's going to be a very good test," she
"Playing against top players, you
always put yourself in a situation where you have to push yourself.
"So for me it's going to be a great
challenge. To be the best, you've got to beat the best, so I'm looking forward
Earlier, fourth-seeded German Angelique
Kerber came back from losing the first set to Italian Camila Giorgi to win 5-7,
She now takes on American Madison Brengle,
who downed Ukraine qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Seventh-seeded Swiss player Belinda Bencic
cruised past Italian Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2, while Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro
was equally untroubled by Brisbane-based Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic, winning by
the same scoreline
Last year's US Open finalist Roberta Vinci
also moved through to the second round when she beat Serbia's Jelena Jankovic
in three sets 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Former US Open winner and hometown hero
Samantha Stosur survived a scare from Slovakian qualifer Jana Cepelova to win
6-4, 3-6, 6-4, while US qualifier Samantha Crawford downed Australian wildcard
Priscilla Hon 6-4, 6-4.