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By Erik Gudris | Sunday, August 24, 2014

Azarenka USOpen

Last year's US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka is only focusing on her present game in New York after battling injuries most of the season.

Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty

Victoria Azarenka is known for her fighting spirit. The two-time Grand Slam champion has needed it after a tough season filled with injuries and setbacks. Yet now, the former No. 1 is only focusing on next week's US Open.

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Azarenka finds herself seeded No. 16 at the final major of the year. That's due to missing most of the spring with a foot injury. A troublesome knee issue forced Azarenka to withdraw from the Cincinnati event where she was defending champion.

Despite all of that, Azarenka is not too worried about her ranking or where she is placed in the draw.

"I never cared about that stuff. I'm the same way if I was better ranked," Azarenka said in a pre-tournament press conference. "I always take it one match at a time. I always know that it doesn't matter how high you're ranked or how well you play the tournament before. You still gotta start from zero. Game-wise, I think it doesn't matter how you feel every day. You're not going to play perfect every day. You cannot go through the tournament playing perfect. The work in progress, the mind you put behind it, the work ethic, I think that's the key things for me right now."

Despite the disappointment of not playing Cincinnati, Azarenka feels it was the right decision.

"It feels a lot better. I think it was a very smart decision to not play there, which was very unfortunate. But I feel better. You know, I don't need to tape my knee that much anymore. I have just been working hard to get strength in there and just to be stable. During practice it doesn't bother me, so I'm ready to go."

But when asked if she feel 100%, Azarenka wouldn't give a definitive answer.

"If I had a magic ball I would answer to you as to that question. I believe I am. You know, I don't think if you ask an athlete when they wake up in the morning and they feel 100% that -- when they will tell you that, I'll be very surprised."

Azarenka, a two-time finalist in New York, remains a title contender even though she is not a top 10 seed. The special feeling she gets out of playing in the "Big Apple" is something she relishes everytime she steps out on the court in Flushing Meadows. Why does she love it so much?

"New York has their own character. You know, I love the fans here. They are very honest, and I love that. You know, they like you. They love you. They'll cheer. If they don't like something they'll boo. That's what makes it very passionate and exciting. Plus, I have been dreaming to play here even as a kid to be on the big stages. Every time I come here it feels special."

Azarenka will play Japan's Misaki Doi in the first round.


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