Wednesday February 20, 2013
Azarenka aims to regain top spot from Serena
DUBAI: Victoria Azarenka revels in her rivalry with Serena Williams which could see her recapture the world number one ranking from the 15-time Grand Slam winner at the Dubai WTA Open this week.
The Belarusian scored a rare victory on Monday over the American, who nevertheless took away her world number one ranking 24 hours later, a rather contradictory setback for Azarenka which has not prevented her celebrating their relationship on and off court.
“Any tournament I’m happy to play against Serena,” said Azarenka, who is still the only leading player to remain unbeaten this year after her 7-6 (8-6), 2-6, 6-3 win over Williams in the Qatar Open final.
“I feel like we’re pushing each other to go to the limit every time, to step up, to improve, and that’s tremendous motivation to have.”
Azarenka has further motivation that she can regain the top spot if she wins the title here. She can even do so if she only reaches the final, provided Williams does not.
“You know (with Serena) you always know that somebody’s out there wants to push you.
“For me, it’s an incredible privilege to be in that position.”
The two are seeded to meet again in Saturday’s final, with the likelihood of a very different psychology from last week’s if they do.
Azarenka now knows that, after nine successive losses to Williams, she is good enough to win, thanks to improvements to her forecourt game, her tactical variety, and her mental stability.
Williams on the other hand knows that she is now physically stronger after the back and ankle injuries which were exacerbated at the Australian Open last month, and the heavy cold she suffered last week.
Azarenka meanwhile claims she is also friends with the player she would most like to beat, and that the two of them appreciate their off court exchanges from time to time.
“I mean, we chat about something that had nothing to do with tennis,” she said of her most recent dialogues with Williams.
Asked what that was, Azarenka replied: “Oscar parties,” adding “and that’s it – I mean, we always had a good relationship off court.
“So, you know, at the US Open final we did not have the same conversations but we had the same chemistry there. (And yet) I feel like we are big competitors on the court.” — AFP