MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka dismantled 15th seed Elina Svitolina 6-0 6-2 on Friday to storm into the Australian Open fourth round showing glimpses of the form that earned her back-to-back Melbourne Park titles, but the 32-year-old said she will not get carried away.
Azarenka was hampered by a persistent foot injury in 2014 then had a year-long maternity break in 2016-17. A split with her partner and a custody battle over her son that was not settled until 2018 put her career on the back burner.
The Belarusian won her first title in four years at the 2020 Western & Southern Open in New York and lost to Paula Badosa in the Indian Wells final in three sets, a match that was widely regarded as one of the best on the WTA Tour last year.
After another sparkling display that has raised hopes among supporters of a third Grand Slam crown, Azarenka said she wanted to stay in the moment.
"When you look in the past, which I don't like to do, your memory is a bit distorted. Maybe you want to remember something, you want to forget the other," the former number one, who came with her son Leo to the news conference, said.
"I try to take it day by day. That mentality, to stay in the present, continue to do what I can in the moment, that's been helping me more rather than comparing.
"That's really what I'm trying to say... that ladder I want to climb step by step. I think the danger is to try to skip a few steps. That's something I'm actually learning not to do. That's been helpful."
The 2012 and 2013 champion, who has dropped only nine games across three matches this year, was delighted with her effort against Svitolina.
"The amount of aggression I could bring point after point, applying a lot of pressure, the consistency. The breakpoints I faced, I played really strong," Azarenka, who plays French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova next, said.
"Taking control of my end of the court, that's what I'm more happy about."
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)