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It’s a rare phenomenon for a player aiming at a third Australian Open title in a row to receive as little media attention as Victoria Azarenka has in the build-up to AO2014.

But such was the nature of Serena Williams’ domination of the women’s game during 2013 that the Belarusian world No.2 has fallen into the shadow of her American rival in the media build-up to this year’s tournament.

The lack of hype is, however, something Azarenka is completely comfortable with on the eve of her title defence.

“I don't really care about it, honestly. I never cared about it," she said.

"I think the favourites, it's predictions that you guys (media) love to do that. For us, it's a matter of playing tennis and giving your best on the court.”

And the 2012 and 2013 title winner is playing down the hype about Williams, and the potential match-up against her in the final.

“I think everybody is the ones to beat here. We have such a high competition right now. You know, you always have to look for every opponent you play. You cannot look past anybody because everybody is prepared, everybody wants it badly.”

If Azarenka is not too concerned about Williams, she’s also showing no worries about the forecasted heat in Melbourne  – as the mercury is tipped to hit 40 degrees Celsius on several days this week.

“Well, I've been here playing for, what, last eight years. It's not a new thing to play in the heat. I actually enjoy that. I mean, not all the time probably, but it's nice to get some sun,” Azarenka said.

In fact, it seems the Belarusian is just genuinely happy to be back in Melbourne, which has offered a fruitful start to the year for her in recent times - a place where she hasn’t lost a match since the fourth round in 2011.

“It's amazing. Every time I come back here, I love Australia so much. It's been like this since I actually came Just enjoy playing here. I think the fans are amazing here. It's called a players‑friendly Grand Slam for a reason, that's for sure.”

With what should be a straightforward first round match against Sweden’s Johanna Larsson on Tuesday and a relatively comfortable-looking path through to at the least the fourth round, Azarenka could be set to fly under the radar for a little longer yet.

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Post-Tournament
Thursday, 23 October 2014
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