STANFORD, CA, USA - In recent seasons, Victoria Azarenka has touched down stateside for the summer hardcourt season with matches, titles and confidence under her belt.
While past achievements ensure she still has plenty of the latter, the same cannot be said about the first two. Azarenka missed almost the entire first half of the season with a foot injury, dragging her down to No.10 in the rankings - her lowest position since January 2011.
She made her first steps on the comeback trail during the grass court season and now begins her preparation for the US Open at this week's Bank of the West Classic. There will be no easing herself into the action, though - in her opening match she faces two-time champion Venus Williams.
Having missed so much tennis in 2014, Azarenka is not weighing herself down with expectation on her return.
"I don't expect anything, I'm just here to play, give my best, you know, and take it one match at a time," Azarenka said during Monday's All-Access Hour in Stanford. "But in terms of expectations, there's none."
"Pretty much since Wimbledon I didn't really take a lot of time off," she said. "I was home for a week so in terms of dates, maybe from the 5th. I don't really remember! It's kind of been a long time but at the same time it felt short.
"I've been training hard so all there is left to do now is just compete and take it from there. There's not really a question of what to do, it's just to play more tournaments, play matches and pick it up from there. That's my mentality coming into this tournament and the summer. It's a good opportunity here, because it's a very tough field, so right away you can test yourself."
Azarenka admits that the hardest part of her injury ordeal was the uncertainty. The injury first flared up in early February, but after an ill-advised comeback in Indian Wells she was then forced to sit out the entire clay court season.
"The most frustrating part was not knowing when that date was going to be, because with some injuries you know that you have two weeks, three weeks that you have to rest. But with what I had it was a little bit unknown and there were steps and decisions that I had to make to see where it would take me, so that was the toughest part because I always wanted to be back and competing.
"Indian Wells was way too early for me - that was a learning experience - and now I'm ready and I'm confident that I can play lots of matches in a row."
For all the frustration, the 25-year-old never lost her sense of perspective and is looking forward to getting back to what she does best.
"I love my life. I'm so lucky to be able to do what I love to do. I got to travel the world from a young age. I have great fans and compete in front of the big crowds. But the ultimate buzz is the competition and trying to push yourself towards your dreams and that's something that makes me get up every day and want to work hard."