NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former world number one Victoria Azarenka has likened her U.S. Open accommodation to a "golden prison" where she draws peace of mind from family between matches at Flushing Meadows.
While other players are confined to designated hotels in New York, Belarusian Azarenka is living in a house with her three-year-old son and mother during her bid for a third Grand Slam title.
"I'm still in the bubble, but I'll call it a golden prison because I stay in a really nice place, but you can't go anywhere
outside of that," Azarenka told reporters after breezing into the second round with a 6-1 6-2 win over Austria's Barbara Haas.
"For my peace of mind, it's easier to be just with my family ... I have my son and my mom around. That is a little bit easier mentally.
"I try to be as cautious as possible for me and my family, for my team. But if I will sit here and say that it's amazing, it's not. It sucks. But it is what it is."
While having never won the title, Azarenka has an impressive history at Flushing Meadows dating back to her girls' singles championship in 2005.
She reached back-to-back women's singles finals in 2012 and 2013, losing to Serena Williams both times, and teamed up with Australia's Ash Barty to reach the final of last year's doubles.
She entered this year's tournament as arguably the form player in the women's draw having won the warmup Western and Southern Open last week, albeit by default after Naomi Osaka withdrew from the final with an injured hamstring.
Azarenka, who next plays Aryna Sabalenka, said she missed the energy of the crowds at closed Flushing Meadows and thought the LED screens showing "virtual fans" at Arthur Ashe Stadium were "really weird".
"In the big moments, the crowd cheering, being part of our world -- that's what honestly I practise for is to play in front of the crowd, in front of the fans," she said.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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