MELBOURNE, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Top seed Victoria Azarenka maintains she avoids studying the progress of her rivals at major tournaments but news of a possible injury to Australian Open favourite Serena Williams certainly piqued her interest.
After opening the defence of her title with a 6-1 6-4 win over Romania’s Monica Niculescu on Tuesday, the Belarussian was asked if she had heard that Williams suffered a scare early in the American’s 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Edina Gallovits-Hall.
“I actually haven’t heard that because I just came in from my match and was doing my own stuff,” world number one Azarenka told reporters.
“(But) I heard she won love and love, so what kind of injury are we talking about?”
Third seed Williams shrugged off the rolled ankle to ease past her opponent and the pair are scheduled to meet in the semi-finals if the draw goes to plan but Azarenka admitted that looking too far ahead had usually ended in disaster.
”I used to look at the draws all the time and it made me think too much,“ she said. ”What’s the point?
“I never look at the draw (now). I know my coach is going to maybe watch the match (of her prospective opponents), but I don’t know.”
Williams beat Azarenka in the U.S. Open final last September and should have played the Belarussian in the warm-up event in Brisbane, only for Azarenka to pull out of the match because of a mangled pedicure which required minor surgery.
“There is no point of hiding what happened,” Azarenka said.
”Everybody kept asking what it really was.
“Actually when I went to see the doctor who did my surgery, he said ladies come at least every one or two weeks with that stuff.”
Until her Australian Open victory, Azarenka’s profile was unusually low and at Wimbledon in 2011, it was the quarter-finals before she was even asked to do a news conference.
In Melbourne, her picture now adorns the corridor wall where the players arrive each day, although she still lags way behind Williams in the fame stakes.
“The other day I was walking in and the security guy said: ‘You got your pass’?” she said.
“There was my picture so I said: ‘There is my pass, there it is’. Those pictures are going to be here for a while, that’s a great feeling to have.”
Azarenka will next play either Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic or Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou in the second round. (Editing by John O‘Brien)