Back-in-form Azarenka warns best is yet to come


Miami (AFP)

Victoria Azarenka says she is playing better now than when she was ranked number one in the world in 2012 and warns rivals that her best is yet to come.

"I still feel that I'm far from my best and that's what's really exciting for me, to be motivated, to keep improving," she said.

The 26-year-old from Belarus advanced to the semi-finals of the ATP and WTA Miami Open on Wednesday by beating British 24th seed Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2, ensuring she will jump to fifth in Monday's new rankings.

After winning the 2012 and 2013 Australian Open and losing to Serena Williams in the US Open finals each of those years, Azarenka was nagged by a series of injuries that limited her 2014 and 2015 campaigns.

But she is back with a vengeance this year, winning at Brisbane, cracking the top 10 for the first time since August of 2014 by beating Williams in the Indian Wells final and marching farther up the ladder in Miami.

"I'm a better player right now," Azarenka said when asked to compare now to her days atop the rankings. "I improved my serve a lot. I'm just stronger in the tougher moments. I feel happier on the court so that's very important, to be able to go out there and perform in a difficult fight."

Azarenka has stressed improved performance with every match as a goal for the season.

"My game is developing with pretty big progress," she said. "I want to see this process moving forward and not really be stuck on the rankings or the tournaments, just give myself opportunities to grow."

A major part of her rise has been better utilizing her serve to attack opponents.

"I always had a pretty high first-serve percentage," Azarenka said. "I think the difference is the way I'm using my serve. I'm going for a lot more. I take a lot more risk.

"It has been more rewarding in terms of winning percentage as opposed to making percentage of serves in. Really trying to work on it and make adjustments to use it more as a weapon. I think that has been missing for a long time to really take my game to the next level."

Azarenka says confidence in her health has sparked confidence in her game.

"I never doubt my abilities," she said. "What came to my mind is definitely after being for so long injured, the doubt was to get healthy."

And Azarenka gladly will take a few bad language warnings to keep her focused.

"Sometimes I cuss and that's OK. Whatever is going to make me play better I'm going to do," Azarenka said.

"I understand the game a lot better. I'm not in the chasing position anymore. I don't feel I'm in the stage of my career where I have to go for every tournament and keep hustling and try to prove somebody something. I'm in the position where I just want to enjoy."