Australian Open - Azarenka overcomes slow start and heat in Melbourne

Victoria Azarenka made a stuttering start to her bid for a third straight Australian Open title when she was kept out in the Melbourne heat for 106 minutes by Johanna Larsson before sealing her place in the second round.

Australian Open - Azarenka overcomes slow start and heat in Melbourne

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Victoria Azarenka in the first round of the Australian Open (Reuters)

Organisers tried to mitigate temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius by providing towels packed with ice, hundreds of bottles of water and an extra 10-minute break between the second and third sets for the women's matches.

Azarenka had no need of the extra 10-minute break after wrapping up her match 7-6(2) 6-2 despite having her service broken three times in the opening stanza of an absorbing contest and twice facing the Swede serving for the first set.

"First matches can be tricky and the weather is not really helping," the Belarusian said on court after her win set up a meeting with Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, after the Czech beat Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei 6-1 4-6 6-1.

"But was really glad to win that first set, it was really important and then I played better in the second."

Meanwhile, Slovenia's Polona Hercog retired with a shoulder injury after just six points of her first round contest against France's Alize Cornet on court six.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki lost her serve early in the second set but swept into the second round with a 6-0 6-2 victory over Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

"Was this before the heat? Jeez it was hot out there, felt like I was playing in a sauna or something," the Danish 10th seed said after her 67-minute contest.

"I was just trying to take the ice-towel as much as I could."

Romanian 11th seed Simona Halep, who last year won six titles and was named most improved player on the women's tour, took 54 minutes to beat Katarzyna Piter 6-0 6-1 in the first match on Margaret Court Arena.

First round results

2-Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) beat Johanna Larsson (Sweden) 7-6(2) 6-2

3-Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands (U.S.) 6-3 6-4

5-Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) beat Yulia Putintseva (Kazakhstan) 6-0 5-7 6-2

8-Jelena Jankovic (Serbia) beat Misaki Doi (Japan) 6-1 6-2

10-Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) beat Lourdes Dominguez Lino (Spain) 6-0 6-2

11-Simona Halep (Romania) beat Katarzyna Piter (Poland) 6-0 6-1

13-Sloane Stephens (U.S.) beat Yaroslava Shvedova (Kazakhstan) 7-6(1) 6-3

16-Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain) beat Vania King (U.S.) 6-3 6-2

Elina Svitolina (Ukraine) beat 19-Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) 6-3 6-3

20-Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) beat Francesca Schiavone (Italy) 6-3 6-4

Marina Erakovic (New Zealand) beat 21-Sorana Cirstea (Romania) 6-4 7-6(6)

Garbine Muguruza Blanco (Spain) beat 24-Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 6-2 2-6 6-2

25-Alize Cornet (France) beat Polona Hercog (Slovenia) 1-0 (Hercog retired)

29-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia) beat Teliana Pereira (Brazil) 7-6(7) 6-4

32-Magdalena Rybarikova (Slovakia) beat Andrea Petkovic (Germany) 6-2 6-3

33-Bojana Jovanovski (Serbia) beat Jana Cepelova (Slovakia) 6-7(1) 6-1 6-3

Karin Knapp (Italy) beat Paula Ormaechea (Argentina) 6-4 6-2

Ayumi Morita (Japan) beat Nadiya Kichenok (Ukraine) 6-2 7-6(5)

Olivia Rogowska (Australia) beat Mariana Duque (Colombia) 6-3 6-3

Olga Govortsova (Belarus) beat Duan Yingying (China) 6-0 7-6(6)

Kurumi Nara (Japan) beat Peng Shuai (China) 7-5 4-6 6-3

Yvonne Meusburger (Austria) beat Chanelle Scheepers (South Africa) 7-6(3) 6-4

Varvara Lepchenko (U.S.) beat Lesia Tsurenko (Ukraine) 2-6 6-3 6-4

Stefanie Voegele (Switzerland) beat Kristina Mladenovic (France) 7-5 7-5

Mandy Minella (Luxembourg) beat Carina Witthoeft (Germany) 6-1 6-4

Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) beat Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-4

Camila Giorgi (Italy) beat Storm Sanders (Australia) 4-6 6-1 6-4

Galina Voskoboeva (Kazakhstan) beat Irina Begu (Romania) 7-5 4-6 7-5

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Czech Republic) beat Hsieh Su-Wei (Taiwan) 6-1 4-6 6-1

Christina Mchale (U.S.) beat Chan Yung-Jan (Taiwan) 7-5 6-4

Ajla Tomljanovic (Croatia) beat Tadeja Majeric (Slovenia) 3-6 7-6(1) 6-4

Yvonne Meusburger (Austria) beat Chanelle Scheepers (South Africa) 7-6(3) 6-4

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