Champ Victoria Azarenka gives boot to toe woe

Azarenka is defending a Grand Slam title for the first time but said she was mentally relaxed going into the opening major of the year next week at Melbourne Park.

Updated: January 12, 2013 12:45 IST
  • Total Shares

Melbourne: World number one Victoria Azarenka said Saturday she is injury-free and feeling no pressure ahead of her Australian Open title defence, saying Serena Williams is the player to beat.

The Belarusian top seed is defending a Grand Slam title for the first time but said she was mentally relaxed going into the opening major of the year next week at Melbourne Park.

Asked if the pressure was on, she replied: "No, not really, because I'm not here to defend, I'm here to win, to play tennis.

"That's how I look at it. You know, it's my position, my mentality going into and starting the tournament."

The 23-year-old won six WTA titles in 2012 but she was forced to withdrew from this month's Brisbane International with an infected big toe, hampering her Grand Slam build-up.

But she said she was fully recovered and excited to be back at the scene of her greatest triumph, where she crushed Maria Sharapova in the final last year.

"I'm really happy to be back and can't wait to start the tournament, you know, to get everything rolling," she said.

"I don't feel any pain when I play. I still have to tape it (the toe), but there is no problem."

Standing in her way of back-to-back Australian titles is 15-time Grand Slam champion Williams, with the pair pitted in the same half of the draw.

That sets up a potential blockbuster semi-final between the two, and Azarenka was the first to admit that the American great is the key player to beat in Melbourne.

"Yeah, I think so," she said when asked if Williams was her main obstacle, but she also said there were plenty of others looking to dethrone her.

"You know, everybody tries to beat the top players. Every time I go on the court, you feel the same way. Everybody want to take your position, be the number one player in the world.

"When I wasn't number one, I was feeling the same way. You get more excited. The job gets tougher for us, but also it's more exciting this way."

Azarenka, who won 26 straight matches at the start of 2012 on the back of her Australian title, the best start to a WTA season since Martina Hingis in 1997, said the Melbourne victory was a major confidence boost.

"It gave me a lot more self-belief," said the Monte Carlo-based right-hander.

"I always thought of myself as a really good player. That mental edge to kind of make the difference, you know, it definitely helped to bring a lot of inner confidence in yourself, knowing that you can do it.

"That feeling that I had was incredible. Since then, I want to feel it again. This is what motivates me even more every day."

She opens her title defence against Romania's Monica Niculescu.

For the latest Sports news , like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and get the NDTV Cricket app for Android or iOS

Leave a comment

Advertisement