MELBOURNE (Reuters) – After two years of injury frustration and bouts of depression, Victoria Azarenka is hoping a little bit of motorcycle riding and some street art will change people’s perceptions and help her to a third Australian Open title.
The 26-year-old Belarusian is one of the favourites for the year’s opening grand slam that starts on Monday after proving her fitness following a nagging foot injury that has restricted her appearances over the past two years.
Now injury free and fresh off her first title since August 2013 at the Brisbane International last week, she is looking forward to the courts she made her own in 2012 and 2013.
“The only thing I’m thinking about right now is playing tennis and enjoying myself,” she told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday. “The year before, I had so much on my mind that were distracting me from playing on the court.”
Those distractions included being constantly in pain with her foot injury which led to early exits from tournaments and her ranking dropping.
The slump also coincided with the break-up of her relationship with American musician Redfoo and her constant injury battle led to bouts of depression.
While back home in Belarus late last year, Azarenka said a moment of clarity had helped her to channel what she called her creative side with the production of a short music video.
The video showed her working out, creating street art and riding a motorcycle, though the rider’s face was obscured by a helmet and Azarenka said she preferred to leave it to others to guess whether it was her on the bike.
Azarenka said she hoped the video would also help change people’s perceptions of her as she acknowledged that on court she is a bundle of screeching, competitive aggression.
“I’m a little bit tired of hearing, ‘Oh my God, you’re so different in person’,” Azarenka added.
“I was like wondering, ‘what is that different of me when people see me in person’.
“You just see me on the court, and there’s only one image. Off the court there’s a lot more to show.
“I mean, I think I’m pretty funny. I make a lot of people laugh. I’m easy going. I love to have fun. I love music. I like to dance.
“I’m a normal person.
“I try to live in the moment.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)