Azarenka plays down top ranking

23 January 2013 08:10

The Belarusian survived a torrid quarter-final battle with Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Australian Open on Wednesday, fighting back from 4-1 down in the first set to win 7-5 6-1.

Azarenka first took over as the top-ranked player after lifting the trophy at Melbourne Park 12 months ago and solidified her position by winning titles in Sydney, Doha and Indian Wells en route to a 26-0 start to the season.

However, she needs to defend her crown this year to have any chance of extending her 48-week stay as number one, with second-ranked Maria Sharapova breathing down her neck.

Number three Serena Williams could also have ascended to the top spot this week had she reached the final but her shock loss to Sloane Stephens put an end to those ambitions.

Asked after her win over Kuznetsova whether she is focused on retaining the number one ranking, Azarenka said: "I think that's what you guys focus on more, to be honest. Everybody's talking about it. Everybody's writing the statistics, the headlines, whatever.

"For me it's important to just take it match by match. I'm here really to win the title. You know, the ranking comes with that."

Two-time major winner Kuznetsova looked like causing an upset as she raced to an early lead before Azarenka stormed back to win six of the next seven games to clinch a marathon 77-minute set.

The Russian battled hard, producing a mixture of power and precision, but was ultimately no match for Azarenka who raced through the second set in just 30 minutes.

Azarenka paid tribute to the former US Open and French Open champion, who is on the comeback trail from a knee injury.

"She played really well throughout the whole match," Azarenka said. "At the beginning, it took adjustment because she plays such a different game.

"I'm glad I fought through and produced my best tennis when it was needed."

Kuznetsova said she was pleased with her performance during the tournament, which included a win over 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki.

"Now it's time to work consistency, to play every point," she said.

"Because the top players, you have very small chances to win the match, letting down some points very easy."

"I feel like I have game (to compete). You know, I can play. But I feel I need to improve my fitness, to improve my consistency, the serve."

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