DOHA, Qatar - In her first match as World No.1, Victoria Azarenka showed she's the real deal, crushing one of the fastest-rising stars on the WTA in exactly an hour in her opening match at the $2,168,400 Qatar Total Open.
Azarenka, who was playing her first match since running the tables in Australia - she won her first tournament of the year in Sydney then went on to win her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open - lost her serve at 15 in the fourth game of the first set but apart from that was on complete cruise control, taking out German rising star Mona Barthel comprehensively, 61 60.
"You can never say the match was easy, because no matter what the score is you still have to put a lot of effort," Azarenka declared. "Also, to win easy sometimes takes more effort than if you stayed there for a longer period of time. But I'm just happy the way I played and am taking it match by match.
"Whoever is in the draw is in the draw. I have to play against them. I'm not scared and I don't run away from my opponents. I go out there and face them."
Other seeds making the third round were No.3 seed Sam Stosur, who got revenge against Sorana Cirstea for a first round loss at the Australian Open, rallying from 5-2 down in the second set tie-break to close it out in straights, 64 76(5); No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No.5 seed Marion Bartoli, who each scored routine 63-minute wins; and No.14 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who rallied from 4-1 down in the second set to beat Maria Kirilenko, 64 64.
A slew of seeds were ousted. No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki squandered triple match point at 5-4 in the third set en route to a 46 64 76(3) loss to Lucie Safarova; No.6 seed Vera Zvonareva had to retire due to a left hip injury trailing Monica Niculescu, 75 32; No.7 seed Francesca Schiavone and No.8 seed Jelena Jankovic fell to former Top 15 players Yanina Wickmayer and Shahar Peer, respectively; and No.12 seed Peng Shuai, No.13 seed Ana Ivanovic and No.16 seed Julia Goerges were also dismissed.
Zvonareva was the defending champion at the Premier-level tournament. "I'm disappointed I couldn't finish the match, but I did everything I could," she said after the match. "I've always had great memories from Doha - I've been here so many times and had some great results, and I was looking forward to playing my best and trying to defend my title. But this is all part of the game.
"I'll rest for a few days and we'll see. Hopefully it's not too serious."
Ksenia Pervak, Tsvetana Pironkova, Halep and Kateryna Bondarenko all prevailed in all-unseeded battles. Pironkova had a particularly noteworthy win over Angelique Kerber, who was coming off her first WTA title in Paris.