Azarenka, Stephens move into the third round

SIMON CAMBERS
Last updated 01:47 17/01/2014
Victoria Azarenka
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EASY PATH: Victoria Azarenka strolled by Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in less than an hour to move into the third round at the Australian Open.

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Victoria Azarenka said the prospect of winning a third straight Australian Open title was an inspiration, not a pressure, after booking her place in the third round on Thursday.

Playing under the roof on Rod Laver Arena, the Belarussian saw off Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 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."

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."

After two straight-set wins, Azarenka said she was satisfied with the state of her game.

"I felt I played pretty good," she said. "I had two very different opponents I played. I'm glad that in important moments I'm finding my rhythm and I'm able to raise the level."

Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens survived a close call against 67th-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic, rallying to beat the Croatian 3-6 6-2 7-5 at the Australian Open after a lengthy lightning delay.

The 13th-seeded Stephens, who beat Serena Williams on the way to the semifinals last year, came back after dropping the first set to capture seven straight games and take a 3-0 lead in the third set before play was suspended.

When the players returned to the court, Tomljanonvic reeled off five straight games and was serving for the match at 5-4 when she double-faulted to allow Stephens to break back and eventually close out the match.

Stephens arrived in Melbourne with a new coach, Paul Annacone, who had previously worked with Roger Federer.

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