Azarenka thrives as Sharapova struggles

Victoria Azarenka is feeling inspired after a routine straight sets victory as Maria Sharapova struggles in the heat.

    Maria Sharapova cools off with an ice towel during her match against Italy's Karin Knapp [AFP]
    Maria Sharapova cools off with an ice towel during her match against Italy's Karin Knapp [AFP]

    Playing under the roof on Rod Laver Arena, Victoria Azarenka saw off Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in comprehensive style 6-1 6-4.

    "I don't think I feel pressure," the number two seed told reporters.

    "I like pressure because I think it motivates you to be better.

    "I know that I won here twice before but this is completely a new year for me and I always take it one at a time.

    "I know it's a long road where I only just played the second round. I just really want to focus on one game at a time."

    Azarenka admitted she struggled in the second set to deal with an opponent who rushed the net at every opportunity.

    "She's a very tricky player and obviously can do a lot of things," she said.

    "I felt like she was really brave to do anything, like coming to the net on a second serve. She went for her shots.

    "So I had to adapt and try to refocus my game, trying to control and move her around myself."

    Temperatures up to 43.3 degrees

    Azarenka said she was thankful she did not have to play in the heat of the day, when temperatures reached 43.3 degrees Celsius, causing play on the outside courts to be suspended.

    "I didn't feel the heat. I didn't get sunburnt. I was in the perfect conditions today."

    One of Azarenka's main rivals Maria Sharapova overcame sweltering conditions and a stubborn Karin Knapp of Italy to reach the Australian Open third round on Thursday with a 6-3 4-6 10-8 victory.

    Sidelined from the latter part of last season with an injury to her right shoulder, the third seeded Sharapova had trouble with her serve with Knapp breaking six times while the Russian made 12 double faults in temperatures in excess of 41 Celsius (106 Fahrenheit).

    Organisers invoked the extreme heat policy during the final set of the match but the rules meant the roof on Rod Laver Arena could not be closed until the set, and match, had ended.

    The second round match concluded about 50 minutes after play had been suspended on all of the outside courts.

    "It was tough for both of us," Sharapova said.

    "Quite honestly she played some of the best tennis I'd seen her play."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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