• Australian Open, Day One

Watson thrashed by Azarenka as Brits wilt in Melbourne

ESPN staff
January 16, 2012

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Heather Watson wilted in the Melbourne heat as Victoria Azarenka cruised into the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-1 6-0 win, on a day when the British players were woefully exposed.

Watson, Elena Baltacha and Laura Robson had the chance to shine on the opening day of the tournament, but all were sent crashing out. And to cap a miserable day for the British raiders, Anne Keothavong retired after losing the opening set 6-0 to Mona Barthel.

Watson was handed the chance to open up the tournament on the Rod Laver Arena and after a bright start, she was completely overwhelmed by the No. 3 seed who did nothing to dent the hopes of those who have tipped her for a maiden grand slam win.

British hope Watson came out with real intent and some crunching groundstrokes and excellent depth on serve enabled her to claim the opening game. Watson continued the assault in the second game and earned a break point. She failed to convert the opening, with a stunning forehand staving off the threat, and from that moment the belief appeared to slip away.

Watson seemed distracted by the sun as she served two double faults in the third game to hand a break to her opponent. Azarenka has arrived in Melbourne high on confidence and she ran through six games on the spin to take the opening set.

With Azarenka blazing away from the baseline, Watson attempted to mix things up - playing moon balls and changing the pace. For all the clear thinking, the first serve let her down badly and her second serve proved nothing more than target practice for the Belarusian.

Azarenka broke at the start of the second set, for her eighth game in a row, and it proved to be the telling blow as Watson failed to fashion any sort of response as errors flew off both wings at alarming regularity.

The long rallies were the domain of Azarenka, as she dictated play from the back of the court against Watson and seized on anything that was not clean.

Watson had the chance to avoid the embarrassment of a bagel when serving at 1-6 0-5 but she could not raise her game and was sent packing in a little over an hour with a display that will leave Britain's Fed Cup coach Judy Murray with much to ponder.

Elena Baltacha suffered a disappointing opening round defeat © Getty Images

Elena Baltacha was another Brit to fall at the first hurdle, suffering a disappointing 6-2 6-4 defeat to Stephanie Foretz Gacon.

Baltacha was blown away in the first set but put up more of a fight in the second. The pivotal moment came in the ninth game, as Baltacha dropped her serve in a mammoth game and her French opponent took advantage to close out the match.

Laura Robson was taught a harsh lesson, as she was punished for her failure to take her chances as Jelena Jankovic progressed to the second round with a 6-2 6-0 win.

Robson did not look overawed by taking on the No. 13 seed and had chances to take charge of the opening set, but failed to convert her openings and Jankovic raced to victory as the Brit's game malfunctioned badly in the second set.

James Ward's Australian Open campaign lasted a mere two hours 17 minutes as he was completely overwhelmed by Blaz Kavcic who cruised to a 6-4 6-3 6-4 win.

Ward said: "It was difficult out there due to the wind but it was the same for both of us and there are no excuses, it was a tough day. It's disappointing because I lost. I am not happy about losing any match but it was a good chance. It has gone and I just have to move on and look forward to the next tournament."

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