Victoria Azarenka, who took down two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina in three dramatic sets to win their second-round meeting in Rome, says she's again found some direction on the court.
"Right now I’m looking at the overall big picture and trying to improve every aspect of my game," Azarenka told the WTA website. "I’m happy with my performance, and I’m happy to be through. I’ll try to get better in the tournament."
The 29-year-old had a tough start to the season but has gradually improved her game, as she showed in a high-quality encounter against Serena Williams at Indian Wells. Those types of competitive tussles are what she says she needs, even if she doesn't win. She's beaten three Top 5 players–Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and now Svitolina–over her past four tournaments.
"There is a difference between losing and not progressing and there's a difference between losing and learning and then coming back and not repeating that again. So that's where I'm kind of at," Azarenka told press at Madrid.
"The beginning of the year was much more difficult where I couldn't really step up into the next match and try to do things better. It was frustrating because I didn't really feel comfortable, I didn't know what to do. Now, I do have a plan. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Sometimes I have to [take] a few more steps to do that."
Azarenka, who travels with her son, Leo, hasn't won a title since coming back in 2017 or recaptured the level that took her to the top of the rankings. The former world No. 1 plans to keep playing on tour for a while, feeling she has plenty left in the tank to give.
"It's hard to say because I don't feel I'm coming up to 30. I feel much better physically than when I was 20, 22," said Azarenka, who is currently ranked No. 51. "And when I was 18, 19, when somebody asked me how long you want to play, I said I will never play past 27 and that's not the case.
"I feel that I have about five more years until my son has to go to school to give myself the best shot and give the best effort because tennis is my job, it's not my life. But I want to make sure that I have done everything I can in this time period and we'll see what happens. Not sure I'll be playing past 35, but you never know."
Azarenka will face either Danielle Collins or Garbine Muguruza in the third round.