MADRID MASTERS: Top seed works hard for victory
THE two leading women both reached the third round of the Madrid Masters yesterday, with top seed Victoria Azarenka made to struggle by Czech Andrea Hlavackova before emerging 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) winner.
The Belarus player was serving for a quick straight-set result but was broken as her opponent pulled level at 5-5 in the second set.
The seed had to save a set point in the 12th game to bring on a tiebreaker, which finally saw her through with 32 winners in one and three-quarter hours.
"The surface is a bit slippery, but it's the same for all of us," she said of the blue clay court surface.
"I don't like to complain -- it is what it is and it won't change now."
Second seed Maria Sharapova defeated another Czech in Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-3, firing 18 winners and breaking five times.
The Russian, whose match was started before 11am due to the demands of television, said that a few days of training on the controversial blue clay surface last week paid dividends.
"It's not so much about the colour. It does look good on television. But it plays a bit different. It's about the amount of clay on the court and the way it bounces," she said.
"You have to get used to it but I came here after winning Stuttgart and got in four or five days on it. I got settled in so it's just a matter of adjusting. It's also the same for everyone."
On the men's side, veteran Czech Radek Stepanek ended the run of Australian Bernard Tomic in the first round, with the Queensland youngster exiting 6-2, 7-5.
The 31st ranked Tomic, who reached a career-best first clay quarter-final last weekend in Munich, lost in less than 90 minutes.
French ninth seed Gilles Simon fought back over Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 6-3 while Ukrainian 16th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov opened with a defeat of Spain's Pablo Andujar 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.
Compatriot Gael Monfils, seeded 12th and playing his first match for a month and a half after an abdominal muscle injury, put out German Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3.
Number 15 Fernando Verdasco advanced against Denis Istomin 7-5, 6-2.
Croatia's Marin Cilic beat Spain's Albert Montanes 6-3, 6-3 while Federico Delbonis of Argentina stopped another local as he put out Spain's Albert Ramos 6-3, 6-2.
Italian Andreas Seppi put out Frenchman Michael Llodra 7-5, 6-4. Estoril semi-finalist Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland beat Belgian Olivier Rochus 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) but had plenty to say about the courts.
"It's not a problem of colour, I don't care what colour they are. But these courts are really terrible. You are skidding a lot and it's tough to control the ball.
"It's a joke to have such courts at big event like this." AFP