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Azarenka rallies to avoid early exit in Paris

PARIS -- Only 22, winner of this year's Australian Open and ranked No. 1, Victoria Azarenka is still learning to think like a top player.

So trailing by a set and one point from being down 5-0 in the second at the French Open Monday, Azarenka's mind was filled with "a mix of things." "Sometimes I felt it was not my day," she said. "Sometimes I thought, 'Yeah, maybe I still fight, I still have a chance.' Sometimes it was like, 'You know what? Forget it. I don't want to do it.' "

Yet she did do it, beginning the climb back from a daunting deficit with a gutsy second-serve ace, of all things. Showing how far she's come from the petulance of earlier in her career, Azarenka took 12 of the last 14 games to beat Alberta Brianti of Italy, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2.

"Before, maybe I would just give up and go home. I was kind of thinking there was a flight straight to Minsk," said Azarenka, who was born in the capital of Belarus. "But I didn't want to leave too soon."

She most certainly did not want to become the only top-seeded woman to lose in the first round since the tournament started allowing foreign entrants in 1925.

All 10 American women who played Sunday or Monday won, giving the United States its largest contingent in the second round at Roland Garros since 11 made it in 2003.

In men's play, top-seeded Novak Djokovic limited his miscues to when he spoke to the crowd in French after his victory, never facing a break point while beating Potito Starace of Italy, 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-1.

"It wasn't that successful," Djokovic said, referring to his on-court postmatch interview.

Roger Federer beat Tobias Kamke of Germany, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3, to tie Jimmy Connors' Open era record of 233 major singles match wins.


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