MELBOURNE, Australia -- As Victoria Azarenka walked off court and into the Hall of Champions after her third-round win over Madison Keys, she scanned the names of the former Australian Open champions lining the tunnel.
"Where's mine?" the two-time champion asked.
She quickly found her pillar of back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012 and gave it a quick tap. On the court that used to be her playground, Azarenka booked her spot in the Round of 16 for just the second time since she made her last Melbourne quarterfinal in 2016.
"Where's mine?" 😂@vika7 • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/xe3S5jzN0G— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2023
"It's something that I can be proud of myself for the rest of my life," Azarenka said. "My name is going to be ingrained in the history. I feel like sometimes, when maybe you don't feel confident with yourself, results are not there, you kind of forget what you've done.
"I'm very hard on myself, so I try to be a little bit kinder to myself, try to look more objectively on the bigger picture rather than just focusing on what happened now and whatever. To take, I guess, my lens a little bit out of the zoom sometimes."
45 - Victoria Azarenka is the 8th female player in the Open Era to win 45+ main draw matches at the Australian Open after S. Williams, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, V. Williams, Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova. Kingdom.@WTA @WTA_insider | #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/UmmdG0ovUT— OptaAce (@OptaAce) January 20, 2023
Azarenka's victory over Keys was her 45th main-draw win at Melbourne Park, making her one of the tournament's most successful players. But Azarenka does not need to look in the rearview mirror for inspiration these days. Now 33 and a mother, Azarenka says she only has to look around the player lounge to get her energy going.
"I take inspiration from anything really. I really respect Andy [Murray] and his grit. It's very impressive to see how hard he works for what he is. I also sometimes question why he do it, I'm not going to lie. I'm like, 'You've got everything. You have kids at home. Why you still, like last year, going to challengers?' But it's his way of doing it.
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"We were training in the same place actually in the offseason, and I saw how hard he worked. It's definitely impressive. I think he's sticking to what he believes, even though different people are telling him different things. That for me is admirable."
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With many of Azarenka's rivals now retired, like Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, the former No.1 says the younger stars on tour are pushing her to improve.
"For me it's about looking at the new generation, how I can beat them because they're coming with a lot of power, a lot of fearlessness," Azarenka said. "I try to remember I was 16, I was 17, I was 18. Somebody [might have] thought, 'Oh, I'm playing this young girl.' But I thought I'm going to beat everybody at that age. They're probably thinking the same way.
"For me it's about looking at the new generation to see how I need to improve my game because the game is shifting, it's improving. It's a challenge."
While the younger players might have the game to challenge her, Azarenka knows there is no substitute for experience. On Monday she will play her 28th Round of 16 match at a major. Her opponent, 28-year-old Zhu Lin, will be playing her first.
"I'm sure I'll have feelings. OK, it's fourth round, it's a step closer," Azarenka said. "But I do want to use that experience. It's a long road. I'm aware of that.
"As long as I can keep my feet grounded and my head clear, that's all it is."