Life tougher at the top, says Azarenka

MELBOURNE Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:34pm IST

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus hits a return during a practice session at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus hits a return during a practice session at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka will carry her world number one ranking with pride in the defence of her Australian Open title, but knows she faces a grim task preventing Serena Williams seizing both.

Williams, red-hot over the past six months, won the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul and promptly took a dig at the Belarusian, declaring herself the true number one.

Azarenka lost all of her five matches against the intimidating American last year, including a hard-fought U.S. Open final.

She raised eyebrows by pulling out of their semi-final clash at the Brisbane International last week, blaming an infected toe from a bad pedicure.

The 23-year-old Azarenka has since steered clear of beauty treatments but could find Williams harder to avoid at Melbourne Park, where the two would also face off in the last four.

Seeded third despite holding the Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Olympic singles titles, Williams could replace Azarenka as world number one with a sixth Australian Open crown.

Azarenka agreed that the American loomed as the greatest threat in the women's draw.

"Yeah, I think so," she told reporters on Saturday. "You know, everybody tries to beat the top players. Every time I go on the court, you feel the same way.

"Everybody wants 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's maiden and only grand slam triumph last year briefly ended an uncomfortable period for women's tennis as she took the top ranking from Caroline Wozniacki.

The Dane had been world number one for more than a year despite failing to win one of the four major titles.

Although Williams's dominance has re-opened the debate, Azarenka said her top ranking was reward for a consistent season in which she scooped six titles.

Her thrashing of Maria Sharapova in last year's Melbourne final also gave her a massive boost of confidence.

"To maintain the (number one) level is probably harder than it is to get there because you have to be consistent," said Azarenka, who faces a first-round match against 54th-ranked Monica Niculescu of Romania.

"It's really difficult to maintain the same form throughout the years. You're always going to have some up and downs.

"But I felt really good that I stayed pretty much consistent throughout the whole year. That's what kept me with the ranking. I always try to improve my game, improve as a player.

"Results come always first for me," Azarenka added. Trophies and the ranking is something that follows up that.

"That's not my main focus, what the ranking is. But it's definitely not something you're going to complain about." (Editing by Alastair Himmer)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared


Patchy Win

Patchy Win

Holders Real scrape past Ludogorets 2-1 in Sofia  Full Article 

Best Golfer

Best Golfer

McIlroy named PGA Tour Player of the Year.  Full Article 

Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics

Norway withdraws Oslo's bid for 2022 Winter Olympics  Full Article 

Bracewell Back

Bracewell Back

Bracewell returns to New Zealand test team for Pakistan series.  Full Article 

WTA Finals

WTA Finals

Djokovic maintains perfect record, Wozniacki exits.  Full Article 

Cardiff's Future

Cardiff's Future

Tan still believes in Cardiff but could sell the club too.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage