Azarenka, Radwanska, Ferrer advance at Roland Garros

by: AP | May 29, 2013

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PARIS (AP)—Victoria Azarenka waited until the fourth day of the French Open for her opening match, then showed she's eager to advance.

Filling a mostly empty stadium court with her familiar shrieks Wednesday, the world's former No. 1 player beat Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-1, 6-4 in a match postponed one day because of rain. That meant Azarenka reached the second round 72 hours after some players.

''I felt like I'm one of the last ones to start,'' she said. ''It was a long wait, but I think performance-wise it was a good match.''

The Australian Open champion in each of the past two years, the No. 3-seeded Azarenka is hoping for a breakthrough at Roland Garros, the only major where she has yet to reach a semifinal.

American women went 10-5 in the first round, including Jamie Hampton's first career French Open victory, an upset of No. 25 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (5), 3-6, 9-7. Hampton hit seven aces and overcame 50 unforced errors to outlast Safarova in the 2 1/2-hour match.

Also part of the resurgence in U.S. fortunes was No. 29 Varvara Lepchenko, who reached the third round by whacking 22 forehand winners to defeat Elina Svitolina 7-6 (5), 6-1.

''A couple years ago, we weren't even in the scene,'' Hampton said. ''There wasn't even a group of us. We've progressed, and I think the whole group will continue to progress. We've all got really good games. We're just trying to find our way on the clay right now.''

Stumbling in the second round was American Mallory Burdette, who lost to No. 4-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-2. Burdette committed 28 unforced errors to five four Radwanska, last year's Wimbledon runner-up.

Radwanska's sister, Urszula, flopped in the follow-up to her victory over Venus Williams, losing 6-3, 6-3 against German qualifier Dinah Pfizenmaier.

On the men's side, No. 24 Benoit Paire of France delighted a partisan crowd on Court Suzanne Lenglen by rallying past Marcos Baghdatis in a rain-interrupted first-round match, 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4.

Paire, 24, acknowledged the pressure of being seeded at Roland Garros, where no Frenchman has won the title since 1983.

''Many TV channels are following me now,'' he said. ''Also, in the past I could walk around with my parents and watch a few matches. It's no longer the case. People now tend to recognize me. It's Roland Garros, you know. They want me to go far. Does that mean more pressure on me? Yeah.''

In second-round play, No. 4 David Ferrer broke serve eight times and beat fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France eliminated Jarkko Nieminen 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3. No. 10 Marin Cilic defeated 18-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

Azarenka waited in vain to play for much of the day on a rainy Tuesday, but said she wasn't flustered by the delay.

''I just really was chilling the whole day, watching 'The Voice,''' she said. ''It was incredible. I was so entertained. There's this girl, her name is Judith. She was a duet singer with Michael Jackson. She's absolutely incredible. I mean, I have no idea how sounds like that can come out of somebody's mouth. It's just, wow.''

Fans might say the same thing about Azarenka, who wore down Vesnina with her noisy but steady baseline game, committing only 13 unforced errors. Vesnina, ranked 38th, fell to 1-19 against top-five players and has yet to take a set in five matches against Azarenka.

Azarenka needed only half an hour to win the first set, fell behind in the second, then finished with several booming strokes and a fist pump. Addressing the crowd afterward, she tried to match rival Serena Williams' feat of speaking French to the spectators, but stumbled.

''I know 'Je t'aime, Paris,' and I know 'Allez,''' she told the fans with a laugh. ''Merci beaucoup.''

Later, Azarenka said she doesn't mind the heavily favored Williams being the focus in the women's draw.

''Serena always has attention, no matter where she is,'' Azarenka said. ''She has been around the game so much and the No. 1 player in the world. It's usual. For me it's important to show up for my job. Whatever is going on around, it's just entertaining for people. But I'm just focused on what I do and nobody else, really.''

In other first-round matches, No. 7 Petra Kvitova outlasted wild card Aravane Rezai of France, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, and No. 12 Maria Kirilenko beat fellow Russian Nina Bratchikova 6-0, 6-1. No. 23 Klara Zakopalova lost to Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (3), 6-2.

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