Hard work pays off for Victoria Azarenka as she gears up for Qatar Open
Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka makes her debut appearance as world No.1 at the Qatar Total Open in Doha this week where she aims to extend her undefeated run this season.
The Belarusian had a perfect start to 2012 where she won her first 12 matches, picking up titles in Sydney and Melbourne, which saw her dethrone Caroline Wozniacki at the top of the world rankings.
While few expected such an astonishing run for Azarenka in Australia, the 22-year-old explained she wasn’t too surprised by her accomplishments over the last few weeks.
"Surprised? No, not really. I worked really hard to get where I am,” said Azarenka in a press conference in the Qatari capital. “So I don’t think going into Australia I expected to leave Australia with a 12-0 record, but that was my mentality every time, going into every match, to try to win and be the best I can. So I’m not surprised.”
Azarenka is making her second showing at the $2.168 million (Dh7.5m) Qatar Open, where she lost in the first round last year as the No.6 seed to Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova, who is fresh off her successful title defence in Pattaya last Sunday. But there is a stark difference between Azarenka’s position now and then, and the top seed is well aware of the fact that she is now the hunted rather than the hunter.
“Probably there’s going to be extra motivation to beat me, but for me it’s kind of exciting that every time I have to step on the court I have to... I have a tougher task to handle,” she said. “So I worked really hard to be at this position, so I have to deal with it now.”
The world No.1 admitted she is receiving lots of attention since her maiden Grand Slam triumph last month but assured her goals remain the same with the Olympics and the Grand Slams being her main priorities this season. She said: “Well, I would definitely say I have much more attention than probably a month ago, but my life didn’t really change. I didn’t even really go home yet to feel that difference. But I’m still the same person, still the same hard-working tennis player who wants to achieve many more goals. But it’s nice to have people notice you more.”
Azarenka, who is one of six top-ten players in the star-studded draw, has a bye in the first round and will face Germany’s Mona Barthel in the second round. She has a potential rematch with Hantuchova in the third round looming ahead, while No.7 seed Francesca Schiavone is drawn to possibly face her in the quarter-finals and No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the semis.