Azarenka knew it was going to be a difficult opening match for two big reasons: she had been out of action since early March due to an ankle injury, and Pavlyuchenkova had been gathering some major steam in that time, winning a pair of WTA titles at Monterrey in April and Oeiras just last week.
The No.3-seeded Belarusian was ready, though, and dug deep to beat Pavlyuchenkova in a very tight straight-setter, 76(8) 76(3). The first set could have gone either way, with Pavlyuchenkova holding triple set point at 6-3 in the tie-break and Azarenka needing nine set points of her own to close it out; the second set could have gone either way too, actually, with Pavlyuchenkova getting to triple set point again serving at 6-5, 40-0. Azarenka got the win in the end, though, improving to 18-0 on the year.
"There were a lot of ups and downs - when you don't play so much, you kind of lose how to feel that momentum in the match," Azarenka said. "Sometimes I was waiting for her mistakes too much, and she's obviously not going to do that, so I really had to take the opportunities in my hands and make it.
"It worked out well for me when I just tried to play my game."
Azarenka actually looked headed for a simpler win in the second set, originally building a 5-2 lead - but again, she ended up having to close Pavlyuchenkova out in a tie-break. "I was just playing a little bit stupid, I think, and she definitely got loose and nothing to lose," Azarenka said. "I kind of got lost in what I was doing and made some easy mistakes and didn't do much with it. But it happens after a long break from playing. You need to feel the competition. I'm glad I stayed tough in the end of the match.
"Honestly, I don't think I could have asked for a better match to start with after a break. There was everything there. A lot of ups and downs and a lot of fighting. Obviously she's playing well right now, she just won a tournament, and it's just a great test for me for my first match back from injury."
Pavlyuchenkova had beaten Top 3 players four times before, in fact all of them were World No.3s at the time - three times in 2009 (Jelena Jankovic at Indian Wells, then Venus Williams in back-to-back weeks at Tokyo and Beijing) and most recently once in 2011 (Vera Zvonareva at the French Open).
Azarenka Vs Pavlyuchenkova Video: Match Highlights
The first three second round matches were also on the schedule, with one of them producing a very big upset - Agnieszka Radwanska and Laura Robson were on serve at 3-all in the first set when Robson completely took over, winning nine of the next 10 games to send the No.4 seed packing, 63 61.
Robson Vs Radwanska Video: Match Highlights
Sara Errani, the No.7 seed this week, had some trouble of her own but made it through, just edging Sorana Cirstea, 75 26 64. Errani looked headed for a straight set win as she built a 75 20 lead, but Cirstea reeled off six games in a row to run away with the second set. The two players were on serve through 4-all in the second set when Errani snuck a break out and subsequently served it out.
Errani Vs Cirstea Video: Match Highlights