Updated: Thursday, 16 January 2014 19:07 | By Agence France-Presse

Defending champion Azarenka into Australian Open third round

Title-holder Victoria Azarenka swept into the Australian Open third round on Thursday with a straight-sets mauling of Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.


Defending champion Azarenka into Australian Open third round

Belarus's Victoria Azarenka plays against Czech Republic's Barbora Zahlavova Strycova at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 16, 2014 - by Mal Fairclough

The two-time champion was rarely threatened on Rod Laver Arena to blast past the Czech 6-1, 6-4 in 88 minutes.

The Belarusian benefited from the roof being shut on centre court because of searing heat. 

"It feels pretty good, it was a good match and a competitive second set," Azarenka said of the win. "Barbora played well and I was just glad to close it out in two sets."

Azarenka was keen to make an impression after a lacklustre first-round showing against world number 91 Johanna Larsson, when her game was riddled with unforced errors and marred by poor serving.

She got off on the right foot, holding serve against the experienced Zahlavova Strycova, ranked 84, who was attempting to match her best Australian Open performance in reaching the third round in 2011.

The Czech made it 1-1 when Azarenka missed an easy volley after a tight second game, but the champion made no mistakes on break point in Zahlavova Strycova's next service game.

After a long rally the Belarusian, with boyfriend pop star Redfoo cheering her on, produced a delicate drop shot to earn the break.

She held serve and screaming her trademark, "C'mon!" made the most of her opponent's sloppy first serve to go 5-1 ahead with a sizzling cross-court backhand.

Azarenka was in control and polished off the first set in just 34 minutes.

She continued in the same vein in the second set, immediately breaking for a 1-0 lead and while Zahlavova Strycova tried everything she could to claw back in a 13-minute fourth game, too many errors cost her.

But she refused to give up and got back in the match when Azarenka sliced a backhand long to give her a break at 3-3, only to have the second seed break straight back.

The Czech was shouting at herself when she dropped points and it fired her up as she broke again for 4-4 before throwing her good work away with another errant service game.

It put Azarenka on the front foot and she sealed the match with another cross-court backhand.

She next faces either Serbian 33rd seed Bojana Jovanovski or Austrian Yvonne Meusburger as she searches for a third consecutive Melbourne title, a feat last achieved by Martina Hingis between 1997-1999.

In the Open era only five women have managed three in a row -- Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Hingis.

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