New mum Azarenka marches on

LONDON: New mum Victoria Azarenka continued her comeback bid for Wimbledon glory on Wednesday as Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams attempted to join her in the third round.
Former world number one Azarenka, playing her first Grand Slam tournament since giving birth to first child Leo in December, knocked out Russian 15th seed Elena Vesnina.
The 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion, in her fourth match back, won 6-3, 6-3, taking her record over the Russian to 8-0 without dropping a set.
The Belarusian, 27, could become the first mother to win the Wimbledon singles since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980.
“Travelling is a little stressful for me, travelling with a baby. I want to make sure that everything is okay. But overall, it’s just great. It’s really fun that I’m able to go home and spend time with my son,” she said. “Overall, I felt like I played really good on the important moments, which gave me opportunities to win comfortably,” she said of the match.
Azarenka next faces British wildcard Heather Watson who also upset the form book. The world number 102 knocked out Latvian 18th seed Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets. “I think Vika is an incredible player and person,” Watson said of Azarenka.
“I know she has only just come back, but I expect her to be playing really well because I know she will have put in the hours and the work.”
Spanish 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut was the first man through to round three with a four-set victory over German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk.
He next faces either Japanese ninth seed Kei Nishikori or Ukrainian qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky.
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 12th seed, made short work of Italian qualifier Simone Bolelli in the sizzling heat, winning in straight sets.
Fans shielded their faces from the sun with towels, programmes and napkins as temperatures reached 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit).
Eighth seed Dominika Cibulkova saw off Jennifer Brady of the United States in straight sets. The 2014 Australian Open finalist faces 27th seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia in round three.
Nishikori downs Stakhovsky
Kei Nishikori dug deep to keep his Wimbledon challenge alive as the Japanese star ground out a 6-4, 6-7 (7/9), 6-1, 7-6 (8/6) win over Ukrainian qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Despite reaching at least the quarterfinals of the other three Grand Slams, Nishikori has never been past the fourth round at Wimbledon.
The world number nine was pushed hard by Stakhovsky, who famously stunned Roger Federer at Wimbledon three years. But Nishikori, 27, ignored the searing heat on Court One eventually prevailed in three hours and 15 minutes.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match because Sergiy’s best surface is grass,” said Nishikori, who is finally fit after a host of injury problems.
Former US Open finalist Nishikori faces Spanish 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round as he aims to make the last 16 for the third time.
Konta marathon triumph
Britain’s Johanna Konta reached the third round for the first time with a 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 10-8 win over Donna Vekic which left her opponent in tears.
The 26-year-old Konta triumphed after three hours and 10 minutes in the sweltering Centre Court heat and goes on to face Maria Sakkari of Greece for a last-16 spot.
With Heather Watson having also made the last 32, it is the first time since 1986 that two British women have reached the third round at Wimbledon.
Vekic, watched by boyfriend Stan Wawrinka, the men’s world number three, was inconsolable in defeat having squandered break points in the 17th game of the deciding set.
Konta fired 55 winners to Vekic’s 42 in the gripping second round clash.
Late on Tuesday, Roger Federer barely had to break sweat to make a winning start.
Federer is chasing a record eighth Wimbledon title and he was already well on top at the start of his 19th All England Club campaign when Alexandr Dolgopolov was forced to quit with an ankle injury.
The world number three raced into a 6-3, 3-0 in 43 minutes on Centre Court before the Ukrainian limped off. — AFP