FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – She dances, she sings, and heck she can hit the ball too.
This is a different Victoria Azarenka we are used to seeing. In the past, she could be testy, yelling at the umpires, linespersons and even ballboys and ball girls.
But now, she is having fun.
All thanks to a sitdown with her grandmother Nina.
“I guess it’s just the mentality change, you know, the approach change,” Azarenka said. “I just know how to prepare myself to be in that state of mind. It’s never always the same. Sometimes to come up with that fire it takes a little bit more energy out of me or, you know, a little bit of adaptation, something that I have to bring myself.
“But, yeah, the approach is there. I enjoy playing on the court. It’s always there.”
Quietly, we have started to see it the last two weeks. Even though she’s the No. 1 seed, the 23 year-old has been overshadowed by the more household names on the tour.
But after her thrilling 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Maria Sharapova in the Semifinals, everyone is starting to know her now.
And she is having the time of her life.
“It’s sometimes it’s not as fun,” she said with a laugh. “Especially in that first set today it wasn’t that fun. But I try to enjoy my moment. I feel like I don’t want it to end. I’m living this great run, you know, this great opportunities that coming at me, that I just want to continue and enjoy that ride.
“When I’m on the court, I feel like I’m in paradise. I’m in that most comfortable place I can be. Why not enjoy it?”
The Belarusian has made a name for herself this year. In the semifinals once in a Grand Slam before 2012, she is now on the cusp to win her second major of the year after winning the Australian earlier this season.
But now, she is facing maybe her toughest competition: Serena Williams.
“Well, first of all, if you look at our record it says it all,” Azarenka, who is 1-9 careerwise against Serena, said. “I mean, I haven’t won in any last meetings, so I definitely need to find something to surprise her tomorrow, because she’s in a great form, you know, feeling really confident right now.
“She has everything on her side.”
And that includes the crowd, who will support the American every day of the week. Azarenka, though isn’t going to be wearing Bobby Bonilla style earplug to drown out the noise.
“I will not really use ear plugs, but I definitely I would be surprised if it would be the other way, so I kind of know that already,” she said. “It’s not the first time for me to kind of face that. It’s definitely gonna be the first time being in the US Open, but, you know, there is a lot of things that been for the first time for me in this year. I just need to adjust and try to be, you know, who I am on the court.”
But to win the championship or even make it a game, what does she have to do?
“Well, I have to, you know, try to return well, definitely,” she said smiling. “And serve. Because, well, with Serena it’s not really the long rallies. It’s all about, you know, who grabs the first opportunity, who is more brave to, you know, step it up right from the beginning.”
And if she does it, she will have a puncher’s chance against Serena. But whatever happens, the No. 1 seed will have fun with it.
At least that’s what her grandmother told her to do.