MELBOURNE: Victoria Azarenka said Saturday she was buzzing with excitement ahead of the Australian Open as the music-loving former world number one gets back in the groove after a torrid two years battling injuries.
The Belarusian, a two-time champion at Melbourne Park, struggled with foot and knee problems in 2014 and only played nine tournaments, also battling depression and a split from long-term boyfriend Stefan Gordy, better known as Redfoo, the US musician and reality TV star.
Then a painful thigh strain in 2015 sent her spiralling down the world rankings.
But she won the build-up Brisbane International last weekend in convincing fashion, and can’t wait to get going at the opening Grand Slam of the season.
“I feel good, I’m feeling excited. I had a pretty good week of practice here,” she said ahead of her first-round encounter with Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.
“So, yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”
Azarenka, nicknamed “Vika” and renowned in the past for fiery on-court outbursts, won the tournament in 2012 and defended her title the following year. It is her most successful Grand Slam and one of her favourite events of the year.
“I’ve always loved Australia. It gives me a special energy. I feel really good here. I love the fans here, they’re really passionate. Always in a good mood and excited. It’s always fun,” she said.
Her success in Brisbane, where she dropped just 17 games in four matches, has put her on the radar as potential title challenger once again although she is reluctant to talk up her chances, with Serena Williams the favourite to win another Grand Slam.
“I just feel excited, I’m not thinking about the chances. As I said, I try to live in the moment,” said Azarenka, seeded 14.
If she gets past Van Uytvanck first up, her first major hurdle could be Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza, who she is scheduled to meet in the fourth round.