DUBAI, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki strolled into the second round of the Dubai tennis championships by beating Lucie Safarova 6-2 6-2 on Tuesday after Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka withdrew due to a foot injury.
Wozniacki 22, made short work of her Czech opponent, winning in an hour, although she lost her serve at 5-1 in the first set before breaking back immediately.
Safarova double-faulted to gift the world number 10 a 3-1 lead in the second set and she capped a miserable display with a shanked forehand to lose the match.
Wozniacki ended 2010 and 2011 as the top-ranked women’s player, but endured a tough 2012, slipping down the standings as she made little impression at the grand slams.
This year has also proved difficult for the Dane, who has gone beyond the last 16 in only one tournament, and she will now face Chinese qualifier Jie Zheng before a potential showdown with new world number one Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.
Williams, who received a bye to the second round, will play France’s Marion Bartoli on Wednesday and the American’s chances of winning a 48th singles tour title were boosted by the withdrawal of Azarenka.
The Belarussian, 23, who also pulled out of last year’s Dubai tournament, said she needed to rest after injuring her right foot.
“I have been obviously playing a lot of tennis over the last five days, especially, so going to a new tournament is too much to handle right now - it keeps getting worse,” said the world number two.
Azarenka has a near-perfect record this year, winning 12 matches in a row since she withdrew from her Brisbane International semi-final against Williams in January due to “a bad pedicure experience”.
That run includes winning her second successive Australian Open title, plus the Qatar Open in which she beat Williams in three sets in the final on Sunday.
Earlier, Italy’s Sara Errani defeated Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-3 4-6 6-4. The diminutive world number seven will play Romania’s Sorana Cirstea in the second round.
Czech Petra Kvitova put an indifferent start to 2013 behind her as she thumped qualifier Daniela Hantuchova 6-2 6-1.
Kvitova won Wimbledon in 2011, but suffered a second-round exit at January’s Australian Open.
“At the beginning of the season I wish (I had) better results,” Kvitova told reporters. “I changed my fitness preparation, so I needed some time to get used to it.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)