Azarenka Defeats Stephens in Australia; Nishikori, Wawrinka Win

Victoria Azarenka continued her mastery of Sloane Stephens, defeating the American 6-3, 6-2 at the Australian Open in a first-round reprise of their semifinal two years ago.

Both Azarenka, a two-time champion in Melbourne, and Stephens were unseeded as they met today for the third straight year at the season’s first Grand Slam tennis tournament.

In 2013, Stephens was coming off an upset of Serena Williams when she lost 6-1, 6-4 to top-seeded Azarenka in the semifinals. Azarenka requested a controversial medical timeout after blowing five match points before finishing off that win.

This time, the stakes were not nearly as high -- but the result was the same as Azarenka, from Belarus, won her third straight against Stephens. The two woman have never played each other outside the Australian Open.

“It’s a great first round for me to really test my game, and I’m happy with the way I played today,” said Azarenka, who has fallen to No. 44 in the world after missing most of last season with a series of injuries and is not seeded at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since the 2007 U.S. Open.

Men’s defending champion Stan Wawrinka dropped just seven games while winning his opening match in straight sets. Wawrinka, the fourth seed from Switzerland, defeated Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

Kei Nishikori of Japan, the men’s fifth seed and a finalist at last year’s U.S. Open, won his first-round match 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 against Nicolas Almagro of Spain.

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