MELBOURNE, Australia - You'd have to go back seven years to find the last time two No.1s met in the second round of a Grand Slam - it was at the Australian Open in 2008, when Maria Sharapova, who would go on to win the whole thing, defeated newly-returned mom-on-tour Lindsay Davenport.
This time it was a battle between another pair of former No.1s, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka, a second round match made possible by the fact that Azarenka came in unseeded, her ranking of No.44 a reflection of an injury-marred 2014 that saw her go from No.2 to No.32 by year-end.
But Azarenka had won 19 of her last 20 matches at the Australian Open, winning the title twice in 2012 and 2013 and reaching the quarterfinals again in 2014, and she just likes these courts too much. The Belarusian jumped out to an early 3-0 lead en route to taking the opening set and only got better and better from there, eventually finishing the No.8-seeded Wozniacki off in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
"She had such an incredible end of last season so I knew I had to step up my game and really take my chances today," Azarenka said. "She's capable of doing pretty much anything on the court. She's not going to give anything away. She's really going to try to make you miss and go for bigger shots.
"When you face somebody who is that good, you have to raise your level, as well."
The two-time Australian Open champion was asked what playing without pain means to her now.
"It's just fun. It's really fun. Because I really enjoy playing. Sometimes there's pressure and tough moments, but just to be able to go through all those emotions once again, it's just really fun.
"I can't wait to keep working and keep playing, having more matches, more tournaments."
The biggest WTA stars were out in full force on Thursday, and most of them moved safely through to the third round, including No.1 seed Serena Williams, who survived a tight first set before rolling past Vera Zvonareva, 7-5, 6-0 (read more here), No.4 seed Petra Kvitova, who beat Mona Barthel, 6-2, 6-4 (read more here), No.6 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who routed Johanna Larsson, 6-0, 6-1 (read more here) and No.18 seed Venus Williams, who defeated Lauren Davis, 6-2, 6-3 (read more here).