Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka has warned her Australian Open rivals that she is in her best shape for a while, having finally overcome long-term injury problems.
The 2012 and 2013 Melbourne winner has dropped a mere three games on her way to the third round, with Azarenka overpowering Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 6-1 6-2 in round two.
And, although the Belarusian was quick to play down talk of her being one of the players to beat, Azarenka has admitted to feeling as good as she has in a couple of years as she goes in search of a third Australian crown.
She told reporters: “I think I’m feeling in the best shape body-wise, spirit-wise, everything-wise.”
However, when asked about her stunning form so far and her position as one of the fancied players left in the draw, she added: “Irrelevant. I know I always answer the same way, but it’s really how I feel – the talk is just opinions, it’s not facts.”
Next up for Azarenka is a trip into the unknown against Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka, who showed her promise with a 6-4 6-4 victory over 18th seed Elina Svitolina in the second round.
Fourteenth seed Azarenka says she will he to do some prep on Osaka, admitting: “I’ll have to study her. Just heard she has a big serve and big shots.”
Azarenka is 1.03 to defeat Osaka and reach round four and is 1.17 to win in straight sets, with the Japanese 11.00 to secure a surprise victory.