Azarenka back in Open frame after two troubled years

Thu Jan 14, 2016 1:56am EST
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(Reuters) - Eager to make up for two troubled years on and off the court, Victoria Azarenka is once again being talked about as a genuine title threat at the Australian Open after the Belarusian's Brisbane International win on Saturday.

The 26-year-old won her first tournament in 2-1/2 years when she beat world number 10 Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-1 at Brisbane and was then seeded 16th on Thursday for the season-opening grand slam at Melbourne Park.

Kerber was the highest seed left in the tournament after Maria Sharapova and world number two Simona Halep, who Azarenka would have met in the second round, pulled out while Garbine Muguruza retired hurt early on.

While those absences may have smoothed Azarenka's path to the title, there is no doubt her game is returning to levels that helped her reach world number one and win back to back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013.

She dropped just 17 games over five matches during the tournament to claim her first title since the Cincinnati Masters in August 2013.

Azarenka, who has recently spoken about her battle with depression, said that while the victory would give her the spark to go on and achieve more, she had managed to keep a wider perspective during the tournament.

"I'm not sure I feel relief," she told reporters after the win. "I wanted to win the title, but I didn't feel, if this doesn't happen the world is going to end."


Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns the ball to Angelique Kerber of Germany during the women's singles final at the Brisbane International Tennis Tournament in Brisbane, Australia, January 9, 2016.    REUTERS/Dave Hunt/AAP