Top-ranked Djokovic, Azarenka advance in Madrid
MADRID (AP) - Novak Djokovic overcame a tough debut on the blue clay at the Madrid Open to reach the third round on Tuesday, while top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova beat Czech opponents to advance in the women's event.
Djokovic's first match on the Magic Box's unorthodox surface was far from memorable as the top-ranked Serb labored to a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
The defending champion was cruising until the second set when his 137th-ranked Spanish opponent broke for 2-1. Djokovic then made four straight unforced errors in his next service game - including two double faults - to go down 4-1.
Djokovic complained about the surface throughout, but managed to get his emotions in check and his game together to take a decisive 4-2 lead in the third set before sealing his 25th match win of the season.
Djokovic, who like Rafael Nadal has been critical of the new-look clay top, hit 20 winners to 24 unforced errors.
Azarenka held off Andrea Hlavackova's challenge to win 6-3, 7-6 (2) after Sharapova beat Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-3.
Azarenka has already won four titles this year, including the Australian Open, but showed less convincing form on the blue surface.
"I felt like a lost a little bit of my concentration,'' Azaranka said. "I didn't adjust well to some of the obstacles that happened, but I'm glad that I could turn it around pretty quickly and finish the match in my favor.''
Azarenka plays Ana Ivanovic in the third round after the Serbian beat Nadia Petrova 7-5, 6-1.
"Sometimes you have these roller coasters and she is one those players that doesn't allow you a rhythm,'' Azarenka said, who is playing her second clay court event this season after losing to Sharapova in the Stuttgart final. "I'm glad I could stay in control and finish the match. There is more room to improve.''
Sharapova was more convincing in her second-round match, as Zakopalova's erratic serve opened her up to Sharapova's solid ground strokes. Sharapova earned the first of five breaks in the opening game and was in command after another break gave her a 4-1 lead.
In men's play, Jurgen Melzer rallied to beat Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4, the first seeded player to exit.
However, seeded players Tomas Berdych, Gilles Simon, Juan Martin del Potro, Gael Monfils and Fernando Verdasco all advanced.
Hard-hitting Canadian player Milos Raonic beat Argentina's David Nalbandian 6-4, 6-4 to set up a date with Roger Federer on Wednesday, when Nadal debuts on the blue clay against Nikolay Davydenko.
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