New year, same old Vika. Depending on your taste in clothing (it was the same as in Istanbul), grunting (it was the same as ever), and on-court entrance music (the kind pumped through her headphones), that may be a good or bad thing. But when it comes to Victoria Azarenka's strokes, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't like what they see.
The exception to that, at least today, was Casey Dellacqua, the overmatched crowd favorite who lost to Azarenka, 6-3, 6-1. The Aussies' support was unwavering; they showered Dellacqua with applause after she managed to win a point when down a set, a break, and 40-0. The more-than-slightly biased commentator did his part with a "Well done, Casey Dellacqua!" exclamation—when the 28-year-old broke Azarenka for the first time in the match, down 5-0 in the second set.
All of which should make clear how great the disparity was between the two. Azarenka's flat yet versatile groundstrokes were in marked contrast to Dellacqua's spin-infused shots, which she hits with a loopy delivery. The world No. 142 played pretty tennis at times, but more often than not she was forced to play shots deeper than she was comfortable with. That stark reality was a contributor to Dellacqua's 22 unforced errors, a number double that of Azarenka's error count and double that of her own winner total.
Azarenka, on the other hand, rode the shots that have taken her to No. 2 in the world to 18 winners and a straightforward debut victory in 2014. In addition to what we've come to expect from Vika—depth, pace, and accuracy on both wings—she returned aggressively and mixed up her service placements, leaving Dellacqua in a constant state of flux. It was in marked contrast to Azarenka's focus; the belle of Belarus was simply zoning as she racked up games in the second set. We counted down to "1" before the new year rang; Azarenka counted up before Dellacqua stopped the pattern at "5."
One of the few things Azarenka conceded today was a racquet clap, for one of Dellacqua's best points: A running stab that lifted a short ball onto the other side of the net and past her opponent. But that would be all, as Azarenka quickly suffocated any thoughts Dellacqua might have had of the third round. There, Azarenka will face Stefanie Voegele, who advanced via walkover. The Aussie may be gone, but the Aussie fans will be back—and, most likely, the same old Vika.