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Learning curve for Azarenka at Open

By Chris Pike
27 January 2013 06:01PM EST

WORLD No.1 and dual Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka feels the self-inflicted negative criticism she had to overcome to win her second Grand Slam title will serve as a great learning experience.

Azarenka retained her world No. 1 ranking by winning the Australian Open title in Saturday night's final where she beat China's Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The 23-year-old had to win the Australian Open title after doing so last year to earn enough ranking points to hold off current world No. 2 Serena Williams, but that No. 1 spot in the world was the last thing on her mind as the tournament advanced.

Azarenka earned plenty of negative attention for calling for a double injury timeout during her semi-final against American teenager Sloane Stephens despite suffering nothing but a bout of anxiety with the second set slipping from her grasp.

That had her up against much of the crowd inside Rod Laver Arena for the final against Li, but now that she has overcome all of that and won the Australian Open, she feels it will serve as a good learning curve as she advances in her career and tries to add to her two Grand Slam wins.

"My mentality was to come and try to win another title. That was my main goal coming here, but it was definitely not easy with all the attention and press around," Azarenka said.

"It was definitely a new experience for me and I think I handled it quite well. I can only learn from this experience and move on forward to try and improve as a player and as a person as well. It wasn’t easy that's for sure, but I knew what I had to do.

"I had to stay calm and stay positive and I just had to deal with the things that happened. I was actually really happy that I went through so many things in these two weeks and still produce this sort of tennis, and keep the focus to win the tournament. It motivates me to be a better player."

Azarenka always knew that Li was going to provide stiff opposition in the final as the 30-year-old from China chased her second Grand Slam title as well.

Li hurt her ankle and fell again heavily early in the third set, but Azarenka just tried to block out what was happening at the other end to try and get the job done.

"I feel really happy right now. It was a long match and tough match in the final. Li Na was absolutely playing great tennis and there were unfortunate things that happened to her, but that's sport. I'm just happy that with everything I went through I could still manage to give my best," she said.

"I tried to go out there and just focus on my game, and play the tennis that I can produce. The thing I love to do is compete. In these kinds of matches you always have to take the opportunities at the important moments and in the second and third sets, that's what I was doing better.

"In the first set, she was really on top of me and she was really going for her shots and making everything happen. Then I just had to readjust and really try to take advantage of when she gives me an opportunity."

While happy to now be secure as the world No. 1 with two straight Australian Open wins, Azarenka tried not to think about it too much but does admit that she actually thrives under pressure rather than shies away from it.

"I never thought about the No. 1 ranking actually. The pressure was there, but I like the pressure," Azarenka said.

"It's a very interesting thing because it pushes you to be better and you can take it differently in a negative and try to think negative, but I took it as a positive and it pushes me forward to improve and get better.

"The outcome is out of my hands, I just have to be really focused on what I do and be very honest with what I do."

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