Azarenka excited by future of women’s game despite one-sided finish
VICTORIA Azarenka is predicting a competitive future for women’s tennis after her victory at the Australian Open saw her become the fifth different title-winner in the last five grand slams.
Azarenka thrashed Maria Sharapova for the loss of just three games in Melbourne at the weekend to join Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur in claiming a major crown over the past 12 months.
And the Belarusian, who also moved to the top of the world rankings as a result of her success, believes having that quartet, and others, fighting for the big prizes can only be good for the sport.
She said: “Maria is playing really well right now, Serena [Williams] is back, Kim, I think it’s great for women’s tennis. With Li Na also winning a grand slam, I think it’s great competition and we can really look forward. Women’s tennis is at a great level right now.”
Azarenka’s breakthrough has been long overdue. She has been among the most talented players on the WTA Tour for some time but was held back by a fragile temperament.
But having beaten Clijsters in a topsy-turvy semi-final, she appeared to have no nerves at all against Sharapova as she closed out the match at her first opportunity.
The 22-year-old believes she has to continue on the same path if she is to achieve further success.
She said: “I have to keep going the same way with my mentality, just one step at a time. It’s going to be a long year and there will be a lot of matches. I just want to keep on improving.
“And I feel there is no limit. If I try my best every day, I can reach a little bit more, little by little.”
While the future looks rosy for Azarenka, Sharapova will leave Australia with plenty to work on.
The Russian may have moved up to No 3 as a result of her run here but her limitations were woefully exposed in the final.
She was out-hit, out-thought and out-manoeuvred in a one-sided encounter.
The three-time major winner is adamant, though, that her best days are still ahead of her.
“I believe they are,” she said. “I believe there’s still a lot of work that I can do to improve. That’s why I am still playing.
“If an athlete wakes up, no matter what sport they’re in, and thinks they can’t be better or they can’t improve it’s pretty tough to put in the work.”
Despite her disappointing performance in the final, Sharapova believes there was still plenty she could take from the event.
“It’s positive as I didn’t know what to expect coming into the tournament. I didn’t know what level I would play,” she said.
“I didn’t play for so many months and I had a pretty tough injury.
“It’s pretty unusual to come into the first tournament of the season and for it to be a grand slam. I’m certainly happy with the level I produced in six matches.
“Everything is still a work in progress whether I won the final or not. It’s still a moving train.”
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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