Australian Open: Victoria Azarenka is more relaxed than ever

Two-time Australian Open champion says she is having having fun on court to overcome injuries, depression and a broken relationship with entertainer Redfoo

Melbourne: Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka eased into the last 16 at Melbourne Park on Saturday, saying she was more relaxed than ever and having fun on court.

Belarus' Victoria Azarenka.  Pic/Getty Images
Belarus' Victoria Azarenka. Pic/Getty Images 

Azarenka, who is unseeded as she returns from a horror 2014 when she battled injury and depression, cruised past Czech 25th seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, 6-4.

The 25-year-old Belarusian, whose win set up fourth-round showdown with last year's finalist Dominika Cibulkova, seeded 11, said she was feeling no pressure at the season opening Grand Slam.

Azarenka, who appeared intense and introverted at Melbourne Park in previous years, has opened up this year, dancing on court after her victories and winning over the Australian crowds for the first time. "I'm having a lot more fun," she said, "I'm just being me. I say what I want to say. I laugh when I want to laugh. I play how I want to play. I grunt when I want to grunt."

Redfoo at last year's Australian Open
Redfoo at last year's Australian Open

She said her trials, which included a string of foot injuries and a broken romance with musician and reality television personality Redfoo, had made her better prepared to deal with the pressures of the tennis world.

Full control
"Being able to control those doubts, really fight through them... they're going to come up — you just have to be able to accept that challenge and really grind. Compete (and) grind those things that make you work through all those doubts."

Aside from maturity, which has included cultivating friendships with players on tour, Azarenka said she had come back with an improved game. "I played better than I was playing two years ago," she said.

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