Dab hand Azarenka, red-hot Muguruza on collision course

Published 01/21/2016, 4:55 AM EST
Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka signs autographs after winning her second round match against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Reed


By Nick Mulvenney

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza continued their sizzling form by scorching through the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday, moving a step closer to a potential last 16 showdown.

Azarenka came to Melbourne Park on the back of a win at the Brisbane warm-up event, her first tournament since last September, and hammered Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 6-0 6-0 in the first round.

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On Thursday, the 26-year-old was almost as clinical with a 6-1 6-2, 63-minute thrashing of Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic on Margaret Court Arena.

Two years of injury and less than stellar form have left Azarenka languishing at number 16 in the world and that is why she is seeded to meet Muguruza as early the fourth round, if she can get past rising talent Naomi Osaka.

The Belarussian celebrated with the Dab, the “fun”, “cool” hip-hop move beloved of NBA All Star LeBron James and a string of NFL players, and said the secret of her hot streak was simply living in the moment.

“I don’t want to think of what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow. I really want to stay present and enjoy what I do,” she told reporters.

“It comes from on court to whatever I do off court, the pre-match, after match.

“I try to play every point as if it’s my last.”

GREAT WIN

Spanish third seed Muguruza has been in almost as convincing form in her fourth trip to Melbourne Park, easing past Anett Kontaveit 6-0 6-4 in the opening round and demolishing Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 6-2 on Tuesday.

“It’s a great win,” she said. “I know Kirsten. I knew it was going to be like a complicated match, because she doesn’t have the common style of other women on the tour.

“So I’m pretty happy about my performance.”

While Muguruza will need to get past Barbara Strycova to match her best performance at Melbourne Park, Azarenka has a lot further to go to match her title-winning runs of 2012 and 2013.

“I think I’m feeling in the best shape body-wise, you know, spirit-wise, everything-wise. You know, my team around me, too,” she said.

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“(But) I don’t really remember how I felt back then because I think it was different stage of my career.”

As for whether she was the in-form player in the women’s draw so far, Azarenka was not about to be seduced by such thoughts.

“Talk is just opinions,” she said. “It’s not facts. I say that you always have to go out there and you have to prove yourself. You have to play and you have to win.”

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(Editing by John O’Brien)

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Dhruv George

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Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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