It has been without a great deal of fanfare that Victoria Azarenka has returned to Wimbledon as the re-invested world No.1. The Belarusian, who held the WTA’s top spot for much of the year after winning her maiden Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open, was overtaken by Maria Sharapova and her French Open triumph. But while Sharapova was sent home from Wimbledon in the fourth round, Azarenka made it to The Championships’ semi-finals, and, with Agnieszka Radwanska’s loss to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final, regained the No.1 ranking two days later.
Still, as we all know, the Olympic tennis event is rather different, with upsets guaranteed and straightforward wins most certainly not.
For the first 24 minutes of the match against Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu, it looked like there would be no danger of any upset, Azarenka screeching through it 6-1, six winners to Begu’s two. But just as quickly, the momentum shifted as the Belarusian made 14 unforced errors, four of them double faults, while the Romanian fired 10 winners to take the second set 6-3.
Forced back onto her haunches, Azarenka rewound her form to that of the opening set, reducing her unforced errors to 4, and scorching through to take the set and the win, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 after an hour and 44 minutes.
Relief plastered across her face, the Belarusian waved to the crowd as she exited, an Olympic win under her belt.
"It was a long wait for me," Azarenka said. "I had to play yesterday but it got cancelled. Your first match on Centre Court, there are always nerves and today I couldn't get into the match in the second set. There were too many miastkaes, but I'm glad I could turn things around and finish as strong as I started."
Her next mission will be against Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, the Spaniard, who beat Polona Hercog in straight sets.
"I get more nervous when I play for my country than when I play for myself. Hopefully, the next round will be much easier."