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Azarenka survives scare as defending champ Li Na cruises

updated 5:49 AM EDT, Tue May 29, 2012
World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka made hard work of her opening round match at the French Open
World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka made hard work of her opening round match at the French Open
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka survives huge scare in French Open first round
  • Azarenka goes one set and 4-0 down before fighting back to beat Alberta Brianti
  • Defending champion Li Na enjoys smooth passage through to round two
  • Vera Zvonareva, the number 11 seed, pulls out of tournament through injury

(CNN) -- World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka rallied from a set and 4-0 down to unseeded Italian Alberta Brianti as she eventually emerged into the second round of the French Open on Monday.

The 22-year-old looked like she would achieve the unwanted feat of becoming the first top-seeded player to lose in the opening round at Roland Garros in the Open era.

But after Brianti moved to within two games of a landmark victory Azarenka, from Belarus, won 12 of the next 14 to finally earn a clash with Germany's Dinah Pfizenmaier.

"I was kind of thinking there was a flight straight to Minsk around 3pm tomorrow, so I could catch that," Azarenka told the WTA Tour's official website. "But I didn't want to leave too soon.

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"I think it was maybe a mix of things," Azarenka added of her below-par opening to the tournament.

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"I was waiting a long time for my first match here, so I couldn't wait to get out there. Maybe I was rushing too much to finish the points.

"Plus I also have to give Alberta a lot of credit, she played really well, and she pushed me to dig deep today. Bad days happen. The important thing is how I came out of it."

Defending champion Li Na, from China, had no such difficulties as she eased into round two with a regulation 6-2 6-1 victory over Romania's Sorana Cirstea.

The 30-year-old became the first Asian winner of a grand slam singles title at last year's event and is aiming to become the first woman since Belgium's Justine Henin in 2007 to successfully defend her crown.

"I'll just try my best," she told reporters. "It's tough for me to stay at the same level all the time." Li will now face France's Stephanie Foretz Gacon in the next round.

Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska sped to a 6-1 6-0 win over Serbia's Bojana Jovanovksi in just 49 minutes and will now face seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams in round two.

Home favorite and No. 8 seed Marion Bartoli progressed into the second round with a 6-3 6-3 win over Czech qualifier Karolina Plizkova.

But Russian 11th seed Vera Zvonareva withdrew from the tournament on Monday morning with a right shoulder injury.

Sabine Lisicki, the No. 12 seed from Germany, slumped to a surprise 6-4 6-3 defeat to America's Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

There were also victories on Monday for Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova, Serbia's Jelena Jankovic, Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic and Italy's No. 17 seed Roberta Vinci.

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