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Day 3 women's wrap: Azarenka through, Collins stops Kerber

  • Gill Tan

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka finds opening-round matches at majors “nerve-racking” despite her wealth of experience.

MORE: All the scores from Day 3 at AO 2024

Appearing in the 63rd Grand Slam of her career, the 34-year-old was pleased with her gritty 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory over Camila Giorgi on Tuesday afternoon at Australian Open 2024.

“She's a very dangerous opponent,” said the right-hander, who has lost to the Italian twice in their five meetings.

MORE: AO 2024 women's singles draw

“In the second set … I focused a bit too much on what she was doing, instead of focusing on what I have to do. I'm glad that I was able to regroup for the third set."

Azarenka regained control after losing momentum in the second set

Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 champion at Melbourne Park, held firm under duress on Tuesday, saving six of the eight break points she faced.

“First matches are never easy, so I'm happy that I fought the way I did, that I took chances in the important moments … I actually played better when my back was a bit against the wall,” she said.

By getting the better of Giorgi, the 18th seed earned a second-round meeting with Denmark’s Clara Tauson, who defeated Greet Minnen 7-5 7-5.

“I want to play my best tennis here because I have all those great memories. I always have tremendous support here so I just want to give my best, I want to put on a show, I want to continue to keep doing it all the way,” Azarenka said.

At Kia Arena, 14th seed Daria Kasatkina avoided an upset, steeling herself to a 6-2 3-6 6-2 win over Peyton Stearns in the American’s Australian Open debut.

“The conditions are tough today, it’s windy plus it’s very hot so it’s very difficult to control the ball. It’s difficult also to play very aggressive because there’s a higher chance of making a mistake,” the 26-year-old said.

Kasatkina next faces 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who snapped a four-year losing streak at Melbourne Park. The American, a semifinalist at AO 2013, surged past Australian wildcard Olivia Gadecki 6-3 6-1 in 56 minutes.

“I’m really pleased with the way I played,” Stephens said after her resounding victory at John Cain Arena.

“Australian tennis is super special for tennis fans around the world, so it was really nice to come out here and play … a player that I know will be a great player in the future."

Asked what her plans are for the rest of Tuesday, Stephens’ face lit up. “Today, there’s animals in the players’ lounge, so I’m going to go see if can pet a koala.” That mission was indeed accomplished.

Jelena Ostapenko, the 11th seed, also conquered an Australian wildcard, blasting 28 winners past Kimberly Birrell in her 7-6(5) 6-1 win.

Elsewhere, AO 2021 finalist Danielle Collins toughed out a 6-2 3-6 6-1 victory against three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber at 1573 Arena.

“It’s never easy when you play against a Grand Slam champion in the first round,” said Collins, who reminisced about her experience against Naomi Osaka in the opening round of the 2022 US Open.

“A tough little bracket [in the draw] that we have, but I think it just speaks so much to the level of women’s tennis right now and the depth.

“I played a great match today and kind of found my game, was in rhythm. It was nice to have a longer match, just to get some more court time and settle into things.”

“I stayed calm for the most part … I was very relentless about my strategy even when it wasn’t working and I made mistakes, I was kind to myself.”

Collins set up a second-round meeting with Swiatek after eliminating Kerber

Collins credited Kerber for her performance at the left-hander’s first major since becoming a mother.

“Because of how great a lot of these women are as athletes and the way that they’ve trained over years, I feel like it’s amazing to see how quickly they’re able to come back," she said.

“If you looked at Angie and if you were out there playing against her, you wouldn’t think that she just had a baby so I just have so much respect for everything that she’s doing on court, and all of the women that have come back from pregnancy."

Prior success Down Under has elevated the year’s first Slam in the Florida resident’s books.

“This is the most important one in my eyes and the one that I want to try to have my best performance in,” said Collins, who is aiming to upset top seed Iga Swiatek in the second round.

“Something about winning a Grand Slam sounds kind of cool … it’s what I would like to do the most in my career."