Azarenka looks to McEnroe for U.S. Open inspiration

NEW YORK (Reuters) - John McEnroe has become an unlikely source of inspiration to Belarussian U.S. Open contender Victoria Azarenka after they hit it off at a weekend practice session.

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus celebrates a point against Monica Niculescu of Romania during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Azarenka, who is yet to win a grand slam title but is seeded 10th at Flushing Meadows, said the experience of hitting with the four-time U.S. Open champion had given her a boost heading into the last grand slam of the season.

“John McEnroe is great, he has a personality kind of close to mine,” Azarenka told reporters after her 6-0 5-7 6-1 first-round win over Romania’s Monica Niculescu on Monday.

“It was great to hit with him and he’s still playing unbelievable tennis, chips and playing his forehand with great spin. It was a really great experience.”

Azarenka said McEnroe even passed on a few tips about how to win at Flushing Meadows but she stopped short of saying she would copy some of his on-court antics, which earned him the nickname “superbrat.”

“He said a few things about how to handle myself and he also said I could hit with him anytime,” she said, “and I think I’ll take the opportunity to do that again.”

“I think we’re both very demanding on ourselves. If you look at John McEnroe, he looks like he’s losing but he’s not. He stays focused and he’s patient throughout a game.

“Like him, sometimes on court it looks like I’m getting frustrated but I’m usually just trying to get myself back into a game.”

The practice session was the second time the pair had hit together after they played against each other at the World Team Tennis event created by Billie Jean King.

Azarenka introduced herself to the former world number one by thumping an ace past him.

“He said ‘how dare you ace me? And then he said ‘how about a practice?’ and so we did.”

Editing by Julian Linden