Azarenka wants to be like Serena
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):
Just like Serena Williams eight years ago, Victoria Azarenka entered the Australian Open as an unseeded player after an injury-plagued season.
Williams had won the Australian title twice before then - Azarenka can match that, too, after back-to-back triumphs here in 2012 and 2013.
All the dance moves and fashion distractions can't disguise the fact Azarenka wants to go where Williams has been - by being an unseeded winner of the season-opening Grand Slam event.
Both players advanced to the third round with straight sets wins yesterday: Azarenka beat No. 8-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, the 2014 U.S. Open runner-up, 6-4, 6-2; top-ranked Williams had to save three set points, then won the last 10 games in a 7-5, 6-0 win over former No. 2-ranked Vera Zvonareva, a two-time Grand Slam finalist.
Asked how tough it was to cope with meeting a former No. 1-ranked player so early at a major, Azarenka said the stage doesn't matter.
"I knew that I'm unseeded so I can play anybody. I just accept whoever is on the opposite side," she said. "I just try to do my best. She had such an incredible end of last season so I knew I had to step up my game and really take my chances today. I think I did that pretty well."
Azarenka's ranking slipped into the 40s this month because of a series of injuries that restricted her to nine tournaments in 2014 - only the top 32 players get seedings at the majors. Serena Williams was ranked No. 81 after a long time on the sidelines but in 2007 became the first - and only other - unseeded winner of the Australian Open since Chris O'Neil, who was ranked No. 111 when she claimed the 1978 title.
Novak Djokovic advanced with a 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 win over No. 88-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov in 84 minutes.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka, who ended four-time champion Djokovic's 25-match winning streak at Melbourne Park in the quarterfinals last year, had a tougher 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-3 win over No. 194-ranked qualifier Marius Copil.
"I don't compare from last year to this year. Just a new Grand Slam," said Wawrinka, who is defending a Grand Slam title for the first time.
Wimbledon semi-finalist Milos Raonic had a 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-3 win against Donald Young and next plays Benjamin Becker, who came back from two sets down to end former No. 1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt's 19th consecutive run at the Australian Open.
US Open finalist Kei Nishikori beat Ivan Dodig 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (0), moving into the third round along with No. 9 David Ferrer, No. 12 Feliciano Lopez, No. 18 Gilles Simon, No. 19 John Isner and No. 31 Fernando Verdasco.
Jerzy Janowicz rallied for a 6-4, 1-6, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 17 Gael Monfils.