Victoria Azarenka of Belarus plays a return to CiCi Bellis of the United States during their Women's Singles Match on the opening day at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Monday, July 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Tim Ireland
July 03, 2017

LONDON (AP) When Victoria Azarenka got going, she got going good.

The two-time Australian Open champion was playing for only the third time since giving birth in December, and despite a slow beginning, she managed to beat CiCi Bellis 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 Monday in the first round at Wimbledon.

''It was really a kind of nervous start for me,'' the unseeded Belarussian said. ''I was not finding my range, not really moving the way I like to move and the way I have been practicing, actually.''

The shaky start translated into a quick 4-0 deficit on No. 1 Court for the former No. 1 player in the world. But the 27-year-old Azarenka broke back to 4-1, and that was beginning of the turnaround.

''I definitely feel like I started to create something for myself,'' Azarenka said. ''I started to create the points. I started to find my range better. I started to see the point better and move better.''

Azarenka is no stranger to Wimbledon, even though she missed last year's tournament because of injury and hasn't played at a Grand Slam event since the 2016 French Open. She is a two-time semifinalist at the All England Club, making it that far in 2011 and 2012 - losing to eventual champions Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams. And besides her Australian Open titles in '12 and '13, she reached two finals at the U.S. Open, losing both times to Williams those same two years.

In the final set on Monday, she started to get back to her best, losing only five points in the opening four games of the decider. She got broken in the fifth game, but she broke back and then served it out for a spot in the second round.

''I think I became a little bit too defensive,'' said Bellis, an 18-year-old American who was making her debut in the women's tournament at Wimbledon. ''Even if I hit slightly short, she would really take advantage of the ball. I feel like I had to really make every shot perfect.''

Azarenka will next face Elena Vesnina on Wednesday. The 15th-seeded Russian, who beat Anna Blinkova 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year.

''So obviously grass is very comfortable surface for her,'' Azarenka said. ''I'm excited to play against her. She's a great player and always can bring her `A' game.''

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