x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Azarenka not concerned by favourites ahead of Australian Open

World No 1 Serena Williams has been in sparkling form, losing just five matches last year and beating Azarenka in the final of the warm-up Brisbane International tournament this month.

Both of Victoria Azarenka’s grand slam titles were at the Australian Open, which starts Monday. Paul Crock / AFP
Both of Victoria Azarenka’s grand slam titles were at the Australian Open, which starts Monday. Paul Crock / AFP

Victoria Azarenka has insisted she does not care that Serena Williams is seen as favourite to win the Australian Open and indicated her motivation was high to beat the world No 1 and win a third successive Melbourne title.

Williams has been in sparkling form, losing just five matches last year and beating Azarenka in the final of the warm-up Brisbane International tournament this month.

It has seen her installed as firm favourite to dethrone Azarenka and claim a sixth Australian Open title, her first since 2010.

“I don’t really care about it, honestly. I never cared about it,” said the Belarusian, whose two grand slam championships have both come in Melbourne.

“I think the favourites, it’s predictions that you guys [the media] love to do. For us, it’s a matter of playing tennis and giving your best on the court.”

The Monte Carlo-based world No 2 acknowledged that Williams was in some of the best form of her life and would be hard to beat if they meet in the final on Sunday, January 25, if the event goes to form.

“But I think everybody is the one to beat here. We have such a high competition right now,” she said.

“You know, you always have to look out for every opponent you play. You cannot look past anybody because everybody is prepared, everybody wants it badly.

“Comparing to her [Williams] last season, of course, everybody will be motivated to beat her.”

In what could be a dress rehearsal for the Melbourne decider, Williams edged Azarenka 6-4, 7-5 in the Brisbane final with her powerful serve proving the key difference.

It was the 14th time in 17 encounters between the pair that Williams has prevailed.

Despite the psychological blow of losing to her main grand slam rival early in the season, Azarenka said it had been good preparation for the Australian Open, where she beat Li Na last year to win her second successive Melbourne crown.

“I think it was a great preparation, the whole week in Brisbane, to play actually so many different types of players,” said the 24 year old.

“That’s what you want to get in the beginning of the season and in preparation for the event like this.”

Azarenka plays Sweden’s Johanna Larsson first up tomorrow and said she thrived on the Melbourne atmosphere.

“I just enjoy playing here,” she said when asked to explain why she plays so well at Melbourne Park.

“It’s the beginning of the year, I’m so motivated. I’ve always been really happy and motivated and inspired to play here.”

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