World No.1 tag not weighing down Azarenka

Azarenka looking good


The 22-year-old Belarusian has reigned supreme this season, compiling a perfect 23-0 record and winning her third title with a 6-2 6-3 demolition of Maria Sharapova in the final of the Indian Wells WTA tournament on Sunday.

Azarenka had long been considered as a possible number one and Russian Sharapova can certainly attest to her burgeoning status after being crushed by the Belarusian in their last two meetings.

"She was one of the players who has always had extreme potential to win a Grand Slam and be No. 1 in the world," Sharapova said after being broken six times by Azarenka in a one-sided final at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

"Many people expected that to happen sooner for her and were expecting her to get to a final of a Grand Slam earlier than she did."

Azarenka reached that first Grand Slam final in Melbourne in January and made the most of the opportunity by pummelling Sharapova 6-3 6-0.

"She's going through a period in her career where she's extremely confident, extremely solid," said the former world number one. "Nothing is really going wrong for her.

"Everything is a positive. When you're against her, you're playing against a good player and you have to figure out how to beat them. It hasn't happened for me the last couple of times against her."

Sharapova cautioned, though, that much can change before the end of this year.

"There is no doubt she's the most dominant as far as this year goes ... just by the level of tennis and how she's been able to keep it as well," the 24-year-old said.

"It's also another thing to maintain that level. We've got many more tournaments to go. Ultimately that is set at the end of the year and you kind of see who was where and who did how."

Azarenka, whose other titles this season have come in Sydney and Doha, plans to deal with all the expectation and pressure she faces as world number one by maintaining the "one-match-at-a-time" strategy that has, so far, worked so well for her.

"I know it's never gonna be easy, so every match I take it as important as any match, if it's the final of Australian Open or the first round," she smiled. "You know, I could have been out here in the first round."

Azarenka was taken to a third set tie-break in her opening match at Indian Wells against Germany's Mona Barthel.

"But that's the importance of being on top of the game when you're not playing your best, trying your best every time, every point," the Belarusian added.

"So I'm not thinking too much ahead, that I'm No. 1 and I have to continue winning or something like that. I'm just trying to be the best player and the best person I can be on every single day."

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