Victoria Azarenka hasn't competed in a WTA match since falling to Tamara Zidansek in her Monterrey opener in March, and before that, it was at the 2019 US Open. It's hard to believe almost a year has gone by, and the world No. 58 has just two tour matches under her belt. However, Vika's long hiatus will soon come to an end, for the Belarusian who is gearing up for next week's Top Seed Open.
The two-time major champion will join Serena Williams, Aryna Sabalenka and other top names in Lexington on Monday. Although the tour has been shutdown for months due to the ongoing pandemic, Azarenka has not gained a new appreciation for the game she's always loved.
"I miss the competition. I don't know if I have a new appreciation for tennis," Azarenka told TENNIS.com. "I feel like my love for tennis has never really gone away. Motivation is something that can go up and down, and it went down a lot."
Azarenka spoke about the challenges of finding the motivation and energy to practice with no end in sight, and nothing to look forward to during the five-month drought. The 31-year-old is overjoyed to get back into a competitive mindset and is not fazed by playing without fans; in fact, she welcomes the new normal.
"Personally I really like it. It felt kind of good." Azarenka said of her experience playing in the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston without fans.
In a positive headspace, Azarenka believes her time in Lexington will also be a good experience overall.
"I just want to do my best. I don't want to have any expectations at all," Azarenka said. "Anytime I go on the court, I want to win, I give my 100 percent. But, right now I want to focus on things that have been working for me the last months or so and that joy that I have on the court. "
Taking it one day at a time, Azarenka is focusing on staying healthy and testing out the overall experience of playing in these new conditions, before deciding to compete at this year's French Open, which will follow the US Open.
"I do want to see how the US Open turns out, for me it's a testing experience; how the new normal will work," Azarenka said before ending the interview.
The Lexington WTA event will kick off on August 10.