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Sport

Azarenka finally feeling the joy of tennis

Sep 5, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, USA; Victoria Azarenka of Belarus hits the ball against Iga Swiatek of Poland on day six of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka won two Grand Slams and ascended to the world’s No. 1 ranking earlier in her career but the Belarusian says she has never felt happier on court than she does now.

The 31-year-old, who beat Iga Swiatek 6-4 6-2 on Saturday, has not dropped a set this week en route to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, where she reached back-to-back finals in 2012 and 2013, losing both to Serena Williams.

“I feel like I’ve been always passionate, but the joy of playing and kind of accepting the process, all of the good and bad in the process, I have never done that before in my career, even when I was No. 1, when I was winning Grand Slam,” she said.

“I was never able to reach that level of happiness on the court, joy on the court, enjoyment of that.”

The two-times Australian Open winner returned to the Tour in 2018 after the birth of her son Leo but had not lifted a title until winning the Western & Southern Open, a warm-up event for the U.S. Open, which was held in New York this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Azarenka said playing back-to-back events in New York suited her.

“I feel like sometimes this quick turnaround can work in your favour,” she told reporters. “I feel like a quick turnaround of this tournament being in one place, it’s a pretty good advantage I would say for me.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford

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