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Azarenka into 3rd around at Australian Open

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Victoria Azarenka of Belarus makes a backhand return to Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. AP/Andrew Brownbill

MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria Azarenka is starting to find some rhythm in her Australian Open title defense, almost dancing onto Rod Laver Arena to some disco tunes before racing through her 6-1, 6-0 second-round win over Eleni Daniilidou in 55 minutes.

With temperatures forecast to top 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), Azarenka clearly didn’t want to be out in the heat.

“I felt like I’m back into the competitive mode,” she said. “I was really focused — that was for sure the best part of the game for me.”

No. 94-ranked Daniilidou only won 10 points in the first set and, despite having triple break point in the fourth game of the second, couldn’t win a game in the second set.

Azarenka’s lopsided win came a day after No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, the woman she beat in the Australian final last year, recorded her second 6-0, 6-0 win of the tournament.

Top-ranked Azarenka had her friend RedFoo in the stands watching and signing autographs, and said she went onto the court listening to a “great mix of disco music and a little bit of new music. I really start to like it a lot — there’s no words really.”

Azarenka won her first major here last year, during a 26-match winning streak to start the season. She didn’t win another major, despite being close to victory in the U.S. Open final against Serena Williams, but held the No. 1 ranking for most of the season.

“It’s pretty difficult to duplicate something like that,” she said. “All I can do is try.”

The temperature hit 34C (93F) during her match, the first of the day on the center court.

Serena Williams was playing the next match at Rod Laver Arena, hoping to get through the second round against Garbine Muguruza on her tender right ankle. She hurt the already heavily-taped ankle in her opening 6-0, 6-0 win on Tuesday. After winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, it seems injury is the biggest threat to Williams winning a third consecutive major title.

Sharapova was careful not to show any disrespect to the two women she beat 6-0, 6-0 along the way to a third-round match against Venus Williams.

The No. 2-ranked Sharapova overwhelmed Japan’s Misaki Doi in 47 minutes Wednesday, even less time than she’d needed to beat fellow Russian Olga Puchkova two days earlier in her first competitive match of 2013.

No woman had posted back-to-back 6-0, 6-0 wins at a Grand Slam since 1985.

Yet it didn’t excite the 25-year-old Sharapova, who wasn’t even alive when Wendy Turnbull did it at the Australian Open.

“It’s not really the statistic I want to be known for,” Sharapova said in her most matter-of-fact way. “I want to be known for winning Grand Slams.”


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