Serving at 0-2, 0-30 in the first set, Victoria Azarenka kicked into high gear to win the opening match of her title defense at the Qatar Total Open. The World No.1 improved to 10-0 on the season.
WTA Staff

DOHA, Qatar - Victoria Azarenka got her Qatar Total Open title defense off to a winning start on Wednesday, overcoming a slow start but eventually cruising past Romina Oprandi in straight sets.

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Playing for the first time since winning her second straight Australian Open, Azarenka dropped the first two games of the match and found herself in more trouble serving at 0-2, 0-30 - but she found her range again from there, reeling off nine games in a row to build a 62 30 lead. The two players went on a holding pattern the rest of the way until the World No.1 emerged with a 62 63 victory.

"I felt like it was a little bit of a slow start for me - I started to go for my shots too much at the beginning," Azarenka said after the match. "Then I started to be more patient, work the points more, got more into the game and started to play much better. I'm really glad I could turn it around.

"She's a very tricky opponent. I never want to underestimate my opponents. She's a very talented girl - and she's kind of a flashy player, a little bit. If you don't put enough pressure on her, if you don't put her in a situation she doesn't like, she will change the rhythm and go for her shots, and make you a little bit crazy on the court. So it was important to stay on top of her and not let her play the game she likes."

Azarenka still had a few aspects of her game she wanted to improve on going forward.

"I'm such a perfectionist," Azarenka said. "I'm always looking to improve everything, from movement to hitting the ball. Today I was a little bit frustrated a few times - I missed a few easy shots. It was due to not being focused enough sometimes. Being in your first match back, you sometimes don't feel you're in the tournament yet. That's definitely going to change for my next match tomorrow, I think.

"I'm looking forward to elevating my game from match to match and improving the rest of the week, and the rest of the year even - I'm just always hoping to make one more step towards my goal."

There is one thing Azarenka probably wouldn't change, though. "It feels great to be back in Doha," she said. "I practiced here for two weeks in December and it's always amazing hospitality, from this tournament back to the tournament that was the WTA Championships. I always love coming back here.

"The federation has such a great facility here. Everything is so close together. It's so convenient. And especially during the off-season, that's what you're looking for, to have one place where you have it all. It's also on the way to Australia and I have a really great relationship with the people here.

"It was the first choice."

Other second round winners later on in the day were No.7 seed Petra Kvitova, No.10 seed Caroline Wozniacki, No.13 seed Ana Ivanovic, Urszula Radwanska and Daniela Hantuchova, with Radwanska the only one pulling off a surprise, squandering a match point at 5-4 in the second set and ending up losing that set, but regrouping very nicely in the third to close out No.15 seed Roberta Vinci, 62 57 60.

In the night session, No.8 seed Samantha Stosur rebounded from a second set lapse to beat Monica Niculescu, 64 16 63, and Svetlana Kuznetsova took out No.9 seed Marion Bartoli, 64 64.