Azarenka in best shape ‘body-wise, spirit-wise’


Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka Thursday said she was feeling in great shape “body-wise, spirit-wise, everything-wise” as she kept up her scintillating form to reach the Australian Open third round.

The Belarusian former world number one was again in fine touch as she hammered Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 6-1, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena to progress.

It followed her dominant “double bagel” 6-0, 6-0 first-up win against Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck, and sent another warning to the likes of defending champion Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

After a torrid two years battling injuries, the 14th seed is back on a roll after re-evaluating her game and her life.

“For me, what I found interesting is that it was going the wrong way. You know, I had injuries, I had not much luck happening,” she said.

“I wanted to look and assess what it is I can do better, what it is I can improve.

“First was, you know, getting healthy, and then trying to just enjoy.

“It comes pretty natural, but it did require a lot of self-work and really to start kind of accepting myself for, you know, failures that I had. And really just accept those and move forward, try to see what I can do better.”

As well as injuries, the Belarusian battled depression and a split from long-term boyfriend Stefan Gordy, better known as Redfoo, the US musician and reality TV star.

She said she is now in a good place mentally and expects to be playing tennis for years to come.

“I think I’m feeling in the best shape body-wise, spirit-wise, everything-wise. You know, my team around me too,” she said.

“If you think about it, it’s my 12th year being here in Australian Open. Almost half of my life. It’s a long time. I still feel young and I think I still have a lot more years to play.”

– Focus and intensity -Azarenka came into the tournament on the back of winning the Brisbane International and she was again untouchable against Kovinic with the 54th-ranked Montenegrin no match for the ferocious all-court game of a player now fit and healthy.

The Belarusian was focused from the outset and immediately stamped her authority on the match, breaking to go 1-0 ahead.

Kovinic, making her Australian Open debut at the age of 21, never looked a threat and while she held her serve for 1-2, the first game Azarenka has lost in the tournament, it was just a temporary blip for the Belarusian who raced through the set.

Kovinic fought gamely in the second set but she was no match for the powerful Azarenka, who broke in the sixth game and never looked back, dominating both at the net and from the baseline.

“From now to further, it’s just only going to get tougher, so I really want to keep that focus and that intensity and that determination,” she said.

“Really that’s what I’m looking for, to keep applying the same effort, and pay attention to details in preparation before the match.”

Nicknamed “Vika” and renowned in the past for fiery on-court outbursts, Azarenka won the tournament in 2012 and defended the following year at what is her most successful Grand Slam.

With Kovinic swatted aside, she now faces Japanese qualifier Naomi Osaka. If she gets through that test, she could meet Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round.

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