x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Azarenka advances as Wimbledon champion Kvitova falls

Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki had none of the issues that Petra Kvitova had as the Wimbledon champion failed to move out of the first round

NEW YORK // Victoria Azarenka, the fourth seed, easily advanced at the US Open Tuesday, defeating the 60th-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden 6-1, 6-3 in just 70 minutes as most of the big names moved forward.

Not joining them will be the Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who fell to 48th-ranked Alexandra 7-6, 6-3 to become the first Wimbledon winner to be eliminated in the first round of the US Open in the same season.

Also moving on was the unseeded Venus Williams.

If her sister, Serena, is the tournament favourite with a seeding of 28th, Venus, who coasted through the first round with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Vesna Dolonts, certainly cannot be a dark horse, even if she is unseeded for the first time since 1997, when she was 17 and made a run all the way to the final.

When healthy and motivated, she and Serena are the biggest X factors in any tournament they enter.

So people overlook her at their peril, even if she is playing her first competitive tennis after taking a two-month break to fight off a viral illness.

"A lot of the battle is just trying to be fit and stay healthy," Venus said. "I've been losing that battle a lot, but I do feel like I can play six matches ... No one is more in a 'one-match-at-a-time' mode than me at this tournament."

Maria Sharapova, who fell to Kvitova in the Wimbledon final, looked rusty in coming from a set down to beat 19-year-old Heather Watson of Britain 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki also reached the second round with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Nuria Llagostera Vives.

Wozniacki, in search of a first slam title, needed an hour and 20 minutes to subdue the 125th-ranked Spaniard.

The top-seeded Dane next faces either Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands or Elena Vesnina of Russia.