ADELAIDE: Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka (pix) sent out a message ahead of the opening Grand Slam of the year with a dominant win over Spain’s Paula Badosa in the Adelaide International on Tuesday.
The 32-year-old was in ruthless form as she blasted the world number eight off the court 6-3, 6-2 in just 77 minutes.
Badosa had a breakthrough year in 2021, culminating in winning the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, where she beat Azarenka in an epic three-set final.
But the 24-year-old was never in the hunt against the Belarusian on Tuesday, with Azarenka superior in every department.
Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, and she showed against Badosa that she could again threaten this year.
“I wasn’t expecting to play the way I did today,” Azarenka said.
“I felt really focussed, I was really prepared and I’m glad the way I started the year.
“For me to come out and produce this type of tennis really makes me proud.”
Earlier, former French Open champion Iga Swiatek launched her season and defence of her title with a straight-sets win over qualifier Daria Saville.
The Pole took an hour and 20 minutes to see off the Australian 6-3, 6-3 and book a second-round clash against US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez.
The 20-year-old Swiatek burst onto the world stage when she won the French Open in 2020, then claimed titles in Adelaide and Rome in 2021 to move into the world top 10.
Against Saville, who missed most of 2020 and 2021 with injury, Swiatek came away with a comfortable win.
“I stayed focused pretty well,” said Swiatek, who will chase a second Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open later this month.
“Even though at the beginning I wasn’t completely sure what my tactics should be because it was our first match, I stayed consistent, which was great.
“I had some ups and downs, for sure, because it was my first match (of the season) but I feel pretty good.”
The 17-year-old American prodigy Coco Gauff brushed aside Norwegian qualifier Ulrikke Eikeri 6-2, 6-1 to book a tasty second-round clash with top seed Ashleigh Barty.
Also through is the 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.
The sixth-seeded American was pushed hard by Italian qualifier Lucia Bronzetti before winning 7-5, 7-5.
Kenin will now take on Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.
There was an upset in the first match on centre court when 22-year-old Russian Anastasia Gasanova came from a set down to beat eighth seed Elina Svitolina 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
Svitolina looked lethargic after the first set and Gasanova took full advantage, outlasting the Ukrainian in a match a shade over two-and-a-half hours long. – AFP