Azarenka shines on Madrid return as top seeds cruise
Former world number one Victoria Azarenka won her first match on clay in two years in the first round of the Madrid Open on Sunday as she prepares to compete in the French Open for the first time since 2016.
The Belarusian, who missed a large part of last season due to a custody battle over her son, kicked off her Madrid Open campaign with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Serbian Aleksandra Krunic in the first round.
"... it's my first match in, I don't know, two years or whatever on clay. So that's definitely not easy. But I'm happy that I could find a way to win, produce some good tennis at the moment," Azarenka said courtside.
"There is definitely a lot of things that I can improve. But it's a start."
Azarenka will be joined in the second round by world number one and defending champion Simona Halep, Spaniard Garbine Muguruza and world number two Caroline Wozniacki, all of whom comfortably won their opening round encounters.
Top seed Halep made quick work of Ekaterina Makarova, beating the Russian 6-1 6-0 while Wozniacki was almost as dominant in her 6-3 6-1 win over Australian Daria Gavrilova.
Muguruza, the 2016 French Open winner and reigning Wimbledon champion, ousted China's Peng Shuai with a 6-4 6-2 and will be aiming to progress past the second round of her home tournament for the first time. Japan's Naomi Osaka continued her underwhelming record on outdoor clay as she lost to China's Zhang Shuai. World number 10 Petra Kvitova, who won the Prague Open on Saturday, brushed aside Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 6-2.
Maria Sharapova also made a strong start with the 2014 champion outclassing Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-4 6-1.