Australian Open defending champion Victoria Azarenka isn’t fazed that Serena Williams is the hot favourite, after triumphing last year in similar circumstances.
Victoria Azarenka has heard it all before.
As she did a year ago, Azarenka starts her defence of the Australian Open amid widespread expectation it will falter in the face of the Serena Williams juggernaut.
Last year, Williams entered the Open having won the previous two grand slam events – Wimbledon and the US Open – as well as Olympic gold and the WTA Tour Championships.
But it was Azarenka who mounted a successful defence of what had until then been her sole grand slam crown.
Williams is again the hot favourite, having added two more majors last year, the French Open and Wimbledon, to take her career tally to 17 and regain the world No.1 ranking.
Again, Belarusian second seed Azarenka is unfazed as she chases a hat-trick of Melbourne Park trophies.
“I don’t really care about it,” she told reporters at Melbourne Park on Sunday.
“Honestly, I never cared about it.
“I think the favourites, it’s predictions that you guys love to do.
“For us, it’s a matter of playing tennis and giving your best on the court.”
Azarenka insisted the straight sets defeat Williams handed her in the recent Brisbane International final, which stretched the American’s head-to-head advantage to 14-3, hadn’t shaken her confidence.
“It was a great week for me,” she said.
Azarenka wouldn’t even acknowledge that Williams was the player to beat at Melbourne Park.
“If you meet her, yes,” said the 24-year-old, who didn’t have to face Williams last year after the American was upset by Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals.
“I think everybody is the ones to beat here.
“We have such a (lot of) competition right now.
“You always have to look at every opponent you play. You can not look past anybody.
“Comparing her to last season, of course, everybody will be motivated to beat her.”
Azarenka will start her tournament on Tuesday, against Swedish world No.91 Johanna Larsson, who won just four games in their only previous meeting.
Williams meets Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the first round on Monday night.