In-form Azarenka sees US Open 'opportunity'


New York (AFP)

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka believes she has a golden opportunity to end her seven-year wait for a third Grand Slam title at the US Open.

The unseeded 31-year-old from Belarus booked her place in the last 16 on Saturday after comfortably defeating Poland's Iga Swiatek in straight sets.

Azarenka's 6-4, 6-2 victory sets up a fourth round match against the Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova, the 20th seed.

Azarenka will head into the meeting brimming with confidence after a run of victories which includes claiming last week's Western and Southern Open tune-up event in New York.

Azarenka believes the momentum generated at the lead-in event has helped launch her run at Flushing Meadows.

"I feel like a quick turnaround of this tournament being in one place, it's a pretty good advantage I would say for me," Azarenka said.

"I'm playing a lot of matches, kind of getting better and better from one match to another. I've been really happy that I've been able to play so many matches because that's where I feel like I can progress the most.

"I practiced a lot. I worked a lot on my game. But really to bring it up, I needed to play a lot of matches."

Azarenka's last Grand Slam singles title came at the 2013 Australian Open, when she retained the crown she had won a year earlier.

Her last appearance in a Grand Slam final came at the 2013 US Open, when she was beaten in three sets by Serena Williams.

She also suffered an agonising loss to Williams in the 2012 final at Flushing Meadows, when she served for the match at 5-3 in the third set only to lose 7-5.

The depleted field at this year's US Open however makes Azarenka a dangerous floater for any player left in the draw.

Azarenka acknowledged that while the tournament represented a "great opportunity" to finally win the US Open, she was not going to get ahead of herself.

"I think it's a great opportunity to play and to win," she said. "Everybody has the same opportunities. For me, I always take it one match at a time. It's a long road. I know I've been down this road.

"I think that also kind of helps me to stay in the moment and enjoy the moment. It's a great opportunity. But I want to keep my head straight on one objective at a time. I think that's the best way to execute it."