With a renewed determination, sense of order and maturity and fewer distractions, Victoria Azarenka broke the drought with a 6-3, 6-1 win over fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber on Saturday night for her 18th career title in Australia.
“It feels like an accomplishment … I’m not sure I feel relief,” she said. “I wanted to win the title, but I didn’t feel, `If this doesn’t happen the world is going to end.’ I think that’s when you get like relief.”
Azarenka said she was in pain all year in 2015, and realized she needed to time out to heal her mind, body and soul.
“It was a constant battle with pain, with my own fear, like `is it going to hurt again? I don’t want to go through that,'” she said. “But it took me to a point where I decided, OK, I got to stop and try to figure out and actually change my life around the tennis court.
“Now I found what works for me, what makes me feel comfortable, calm, at peace. So it’s good.”
While many of the highly-ranked women have struggled with injuries at the start of the season, Azarenka has shown glimpses of the kind of form that helped her hold the No. 1 ranking for almost a year. She said she wouldn’t describe Saturday’s victory as a career comeback, more just a turning of the page.
She dropped 17 games in five matches — equaling Serena Williams’ record for fewest games conceded by a winner at the tournament.
Top-ranked Williams was on the injured list this week, restricted to one set at the Hopman Cup in Perth because of inflammation in her left knee, while No. 2 Simona Halep and 2015 champion Maria Sharapova withdrew and No. 3 Garbine Muguruza retired in her first match at Brisbane because of injuries.