Victoria Azarenka will carry her world number one ranking with pride in the defence of her Australian Open title, but knows she faces a grim task preventing Serena Williams seizing both.
Williams, red-hot over the past six months, won the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul and promptly took a dig at the Belarusian, declaring herself the true number one.
Azarenka suffer all of her five matches against the daunting American final twelvemonth, let inning a hard-fought U.S. Open last.
She raised eyebrows by pulling out of their semi-final clash at the Brisbane International last week, blaming an infected toe from a bad pedicure.
The 23-year-old Azarenka has since steered clear of beauty treatments but could find Williams harder to avoid at Melbourne Park, where the two would also face off in the last four.
Seeded 3rd despite prevailing the Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Olympic of deeds of conveyance, Williams could exchange Azarenka as macrocosm turn one with a 6th Australian Open crown.
Azarenka agreed that the American loomed as the greatest threat in the women’s draw.
“Yeah, I think so,” she told reporters on Saturday. “You know, everybody tries to beat the top players. Every time I go on the court, you feel the same way.
“Everybody wants to have your post, represent the turn one participant in the macrocosm. When I represent not turn one I represent sensing the like fashion. You get more aroused.
“The job gets tougher for us, but also it’s more exciting this way.”
Azarenka is inaugural and solitary distinguished sweep victory final twelvemonth briefly cease an uncomfortable menstruum for cleaning women is lawn tennis as she have the top ranking from Caroline Wozniacki.
The Dane had been world number one for more than a year despite failing to win one of the four major titles.
Although Williams is say-so has re-opened the disputation, Azarenka read her top ranking represent reward for a uniform time of year in which she scoop out six deeds of conveyance.
Her lacing of Maria Sharapova in final twelvemonth is Melbourne last also have her a monolithic hike of self-assurance.
“To maintain the (number one) level is probably harder than it is to get there because you have to be consistent,” said Azarenka, who faces a first-round match against 54th-ranked Monica Niculescu of Romania.
“It’s really difficult to maintain the same form throughout the years. You’re always going to have some up and downs.
“But I felt really good that I stayed pretty much consistent throughout the whole year. That’s what kept me with the ranking. I always try to improve my game, improve as a player.
“Results come always first for me,” Azarenka added. Trophies and the ranking is something that follows up that.
“That’s not my main focus, what the ranking is. But it’s definitely not something you’re going to complain about.”