Take 2: Resurgent Azarenka ready for Australian Open
Jan. 16, 2016
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — In her new music video, Victoria Azarenka spins wheels on a motorbike and sprays graffiti on a wall. There's not a tennis racket to be seen.
If her recent resurgence is any guide, the clip isn't a metaphor for her career. It's not a case of the writing being on the wall. She hasn't entirely lost traction.
While most of the players in the women's top 10 withdrew from tournaments or matches because of injuries in the first week of the season, Azarenka was gaining confidence with a win at the Brisbane International, her first title since 2013.
It wasn't entirely the withdrawals of of No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 3 Garbine Muguruza or 2015 champion Maria Sharapova that allowed her to get on a winning roll in Brisbane, either, with Azarenka showing glimpses of the form that powered her run to back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013.
"I feel good. Feeling excited," the former No. 1-ranked Azarenka said Saturday as she looked ahead to the Australian Open, which starts Monday. "I always loved Australia. It gives me a special energy. I love fans here. They're really passionate. Always in good mood and excited. It's always fun."
A title run at the start of the season has generated plenty of speculation that Azarenka could be the one to challenge Serena Williams' dominance of the women's game. But the 26-year-old Belarussian, who was restricted by injuries and pain over the last two seasons, said for now she understands it's just paper talk.
"It's quite normal that somebody had success going in, predictions. It's always the same story," she said. Reporters "need to write that, hype everybody up. I'm not saying it in a bad way. It's just for me it's a little bit irrelevant.
"I know I still have to go out there and prove myself. I just want to make sure I'm prepared as best as I can."
That starts with a first-round match against Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium, and could lead to matches against Muguruza and Halep.
Azarenka attributes her resurgence to time spent dwelling on life and matters outside tennis. She did a lot of soul-searching while she was dealing with injuries, and now wants to express herself in writing and in other creative outlets when she's not concentrating on tennis.
Hence the video.
"I wanted to do something a little bit different. Show my creative side, what I can do," she said. "I talked to my friends. We just started creating. Writing a treatment, making music. I think it's a great way to show, first of all, that I'm always going to be known as a tennis player, but there is much more for me to offer than just that. I wanted to show that to my fans, to people who don't know me off the court."
Azarenka didn't always have 100 percent support among tennis fans, something she puts down to the perceptions.
"When you see me on the court fighting in the heat, there's competition. You see a competitive, aggressive, you know, sometimes emotional person," she said. "Off court, I think I'm pretty funny. I make a lot of people laugh. I'm easygoing. I love to have fun. I love music. I like to dance, which obviously I do dance on the court, but only after the match."
Even there's added competition, defending champion Serena Williams is happy to see Azarenka regaining some rhythm.
"I think Vika is such a great player. Not only that, she's such a good personality. She's really fun. She's super cool," Williams said. "It's so good to see someone like her who has been through a lot of ups and downs, has seen the glory, then had to go down in her ranking, to be able to come back and just do so well.
"Just in general, she's the kind of person that you always just root for just because."