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Hot Azarenka lays down marker at Australian Open

Belarusian third seed Victoria Azarenka dominated young Briton Heather Watson in the Australian Open's first round on Monday as she pressed her claims for a maiden grand slam win.

Azarenka, who won last week's Sydney International and is unbeaten in 2012, needed just 67 minutes to overwhelm Watson 6-0, 6-1 and move into a second round clash against Australia's Casey Dellacqua.


Victoria Azarenka of Belarus celebrates her victory. Pic/AFP

The world number three was far too powerful for Watson, blasting 15 clean winners and forcing 14 errors from the Englishwoman's racquet in hot conditions at Melbourne Park. "I think it was a good performance," Azarenka said. "There are a few things for me that I have to work on tomorrow to be better in my second round, but you know, I take what I get. I cannot complain."

Azarenka is one of six players in the draw who could finish the tournament with the number one ranking, and she acknowledged it was time she stood up and won a major tournament. "These are always the goals for me. I'm such a competitor that I always put challenges on myself on the court, off the court, and I try to reach them," she said.

"I always go step by step. I cannot jump ahead. I think now is a good opportunity, I feel good playing." Eighth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who also has a chance of becoming number, came back from a set down to beat colourful American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-7 (10/12), 6-4, 6-2.

In a match lasting three hours exactly, the 21-year-old Pole lost the first set despite leading 6-1 in the tiebreak, but eventually ground down her opponent and now faces Argentinian qualifier Paula Ormaechea.

Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova, the 20th seed, also came from a set down in her match to defeat US qualifier Varvara Lepchenko 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours, 19 minutes. Meanwhile Greece's Eleni Daniilidou ended the hopes of 41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3, 6-2.

The Japanese veteran became the second oldest player to contest the Australian Open women's singles in the open era, after the 44-year-old Beverley Rae in 1974, but she couldn't match her Greek opponent, who wrapped up the encounter in one hour and 24 minutes.

Kimiko-Date's fellow countrywoman Ayumi Morita also bowed out in the first round, at the hands of Petra Cetkovska, the Czech 32nd seed winning 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.

Meanwhile, 26th-seeded Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain progressed with a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 win over Czech Eva Birnerova.

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