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By Joe McDonald

Victoria Azarenka beats Zheng Jie in Straight Sets (August 31, 2012) -- If you are going to blame someone for this, blame ESPN.

It has to be someone’s fault that there are so many blowouts at night during the first week of the US Open.

It certainly isn’t Victoria Azarenka’s fault that No. 28 seed Jie Zheng didn’t belong on the same court as her. The No. 1 seed wants to win a tournament and frankly has zero interest of being on the big stage any longer than she had to.

And it’s not the Arthur Ashe crowd, who paid good dough for these tickets. Heck they want to get their money’s worth. But in all honestly, it’s just tough when the networks want to see stars early on.

Competition be dammed. This is all about the ratings.

But Azarenka seemed to enjoy her time, even though she was playing like she was being charged by the hour. The 59 minute, 6-0 6-1, drubbing was her introduction to the night matches and frankly, her spotlight into the New York crowd.

“When you know it's real night session, you kind of feel the buzz, the energy,” she said. “But it was amazing, you know, to play in front of this crowd, the biggest stadium of the tennis world. It was incredible. The energy, you don't want to leave.”

The 23 year-old Belarus native is playing her best tennis of her career. Winning the Australian Open this year, she found herself in the zone and is now up there with the crowd favorites like Serna Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Yet, she doesn’t think so, or at least she is showing modesty that she is famous for.

“I let my racquet talk, not really me talking,” Azarenka said. “I think that's important. You really show when you're on the court are you a favorite? Are you not a favorite? Are you playing well? Are you not playing well?

“In the end of the day, your game is what shows, you know, who you are in the tennis world. So for me important is just try to be focused and giving hundred percent every day.”

And that 100 percent also means being in the zone, like she was in Australia in January. But again the modest girl has a very forgetful mind when it comes to her Grand Slam win.

“I don't remember how I played in Australia,” she said. “Seriously, just the feeling of winning there I remember. You never feel perfect, you know. Like on some practices I felt terrible. Honestly here I felt like I cannot put the ball in or it's going all over the place.

“But I'm glad when I go to the matches I have that state of mind that I'm really focused and I'm trying to, you know, fight for every ball. I try to make my opponent, you know, if they win the point, makes it really difficult for them.

“So I don't compare too much. I just feel like every tournament is a little bit different when you play, the way you adjust. It wasn't that windy. There was not really many night sessions in Australia. Actually, there was. I'm confusing.

“But, as I said, I don't really like to compare, but I felt pretty good out there.”

So maybe the crowd got its money’s worth tonight. They got to see the No. 1 player in the world, even though many in the stands couldn’t name her when she stepped out on the court.

One hour later, they all know Azarenka now.

(Photo Credit: AFP/Patrick Kovarik)


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