• French Open, Day Two

No white flag for Azarenka in Paris

Jo Carter May 28, 2012
The face of a champion? Victoria Azarenka had to dig deep against Alberta Brianti © PA Photos

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Azarenka's great escape
Federer in cruise control
Djokovic starts strongly
Robson falls at first hurdle

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After Victoria Azarenka snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to avoid a humiliating first-round exit, the world No. 1 admitted she barely believed a comeback was possible.

In recent years we have seen the likes of Francesca Schiavone, Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur all bag their maiden grand slam titles, only to struggle in subsequent majors.

Azarenka's win at the Australian Open propelled her to the top of the rankings, and her 26-match unbeaten streak saw her pick up titles in Sydney, Doha and Indian Wells.

There was never any doubt that Azarenka had the game to win a major, but her failure to control her emotions on court threatened to consign her as a player who never fulfilled her potential.

As Amelie Mauresmo looked on anxiously from the stands, it was the Azarenka of old who threatened to re-emerge - with the Belarusian on the brink of a humiliating first-round exit - no top-seeded woman had ever lost in the first round at the French Open since the tournament opened its doors to foreign entrants in 1925.

Serving at 6-7(6) 0-4 down, Azarenka rallied, winning 12 of the next 14 games to secure a 6-7(6) 6-4 6-2 victory.

"Sometimes I felt it was not my day. Sometimes I thought, 'Yeah, maybe I still fight, I still have a chance,'" Azarenka said. "Sometimes it was like, you know what? Forget it. I don't want to do it."

"Sometimes I felt it was not my day. Sometimes it was like, you know what? Forget it. I don't want to do it."

It was almost the direct opposite of Azarenka's Australian Open quarter-final defeat to Serena Williams back in 2010. Azarenka was leading 4-0 in the second set but surrendered rather tamely to a 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2 defeat. Williams went on to win the tournament.

There was nothing tame about Azarenka on Court Philippe Chatrier. Scrappy, yes; inconsistent, yes. But she gritted her teeth and got the job done.

The Azarenka of old would have waved the white flag at 0-4 down in the second set. The Azarenka of 2012 showed impressive resolve to hang on when victory seemed a distant dream.

Does Azarenka's win show a weakness her rivals can capitalise on, or will they be afraid of her refusal to accept defeat? Possibly a bit of both.

After so many one-off major winners, Azarenka will be desperate to prove she is not just a one-hit wonder. With 60 unforced errors there is plenty of room for improvement when she returns to the practice court, but there is no questioning her will to win.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk