Azarenka advances after early U.S. Open stumble

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka stumbled in the second set of her opening match at the U.S. Open on Monday but answered with a strong final set to defeat Romania’s Monica Niculescu 6-0 5-7 6-1.

Belarussian Azarenka wrapped up the first set in 30 minutes as Niculescu had no answer for her hefty backhand.

But the Romanian finally found her game in the second set to level the match, but it proved only a temporary respite for the qualifier.

Azarenka, who prepared for the match by practicing with four-time U.S. Open winner John McEnroe on Saturday, raised her game in the third set.

Showing no signs of the shoulder complaint that forced her to pull out of the San Diego Open earlier this month, the number-10 seed raced through the final set in just 31 minutes.

The 21-year-old is hotly tipped for a strong run at Flushing Meadows after reaching the last four of her final U.S. Open warm-up event in Montreal.

Editing by Frank Pingue