MELBOURNE, Australia — Third-seeded Victoria Azarenka won 12 straight games to finish off Heather Watson 6-1, 6-0 in 67 minutes Monday in the opening match on center court at the Australian Open.
Azarenka, one of six women who can finish atop the rankings depending on results at Melbourne Park, is coming off a win at the Sydney International last week.
"Well, the score is easy. To actually play the match, it's never easy, especially for me coming here only Saturday," Azarenka said, adding she was unsettled because she had to get to Melbourne Park so early there was nowhere open to buy her morning coffee.
"First time I actually hit on center court was today in the morning."
The Sydney champion has gone on to reach the Australian Open final six times since 1997, winning twice. Li Na won in Sydney last year but lost the Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters. Li and Clijsters were in action later Monday.
Azarenka beat Li in the Sydney final Friday night and is starting to gain a following in Melbourne's Chinese community.
"After beating Li Na, a lot of Chinese people started recognizing me," the 22-year-old from Belarus said about her experience at a Chinese restaurant. "That's a plus."
She'll get more local attention in coming days, with a second-round match against Australian wild-card entry Casey Dellacqua, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski.
Eighth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska can take the top ranking by winning the Australian title. She had a battle on her hands just to make the second round, fending off American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-2 in a three-hour match on Show Court 2. Mattek-Sands hit a stunning 81 winners but had 65 unforced errors.
Radwanska remained composed after trading breaks early in the third set, winning five of the last six games.
Clijsters was due to play Maria Joao Koehler of Portugal, and Li, the French Open champion, had a first-round match against Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan. Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, still searching for her first major title, faced Australia's Anastasia Rodionova.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are on the same side of the draw for the first time since 2005.
Third-seeded Federer, a four-time Australian Open winner, was set to play on Rod Laver Arena in a Monday night match against Russian qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev. Second-ranked Nadal had the last match on Hisense Arena — the second show court at Melbourne Park — against Russian Alex Kuznetsov.
Nadal criticized Federer over the weekend for letting other players "burn themselves" by complaining about tour conditions while maintaining his good reputation by rarely making negative comments about tennis.
After telling a pre-tournament news conference Sunday he had no intention of being the frontman for the players' grievances because it has reflected badly on him in the past, Nadal was then critical of 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer in a Spanish-language interview.