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I'm here to win, not defend title: Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka will try to ignore her status as defending Australian Open champion — and the pressure which goes with it — when she gets her campaign under way at Melbourne Park.

The world number one meets Romania’s Monica Niculescu on Tuesday as she bids to repeat her feat of 12 months ago, when she landed her first grand slam title.


Smash hit: Victoria Azarenka hits a return during a training session ahead of Australian Open yesterday. Pic/AFP

Rather than dwell on the past, though, the Belarusian is simply focusing on starting 2013 in positive fashion. “I’m not here to defend the title, I am here to win, to play tennis,” she said. “It’s my position, my mentality going into and starting the tournament.”

Azarenka admits, however, that her win here last year, when she crushed Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-0 in the final, proved a turning point in her career. “It gave me more self-belief,” she added.

“I always thought of myself as a really good player but that mental edge I had made the difference. It definitely helps to bring a lot of inner confidence, knowing you can do it.

“That feeling I had was incredible and since then I want to feel it again. That is what motivates me even more every day. It's amazing when you achieve your dream.”

Sharapova opens proceedings on Rod Laver Arena today when she takes on Russian countrywoman Olga Puchkova.

The second seed was forced to skip the warm-up event in Brisbane due to a collarbone injury and she admits her lack of match practice is likely to mean a different mental approach.

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