Azarenka picks Barty as future star

VICTORIA AZARENKA says Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty is on her radar as a danger player on the rise, though she warned the Queenslander was still a work-in-progress.

After successfully defending her Australian Open crown and world No.1 ranking at Melbourne Park, the Belarusian nominated 16-year-old Barty, who has drawn comparisons with the great Martina Hingis and reached the women's doubles final in Melbourne with fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua, as a future star.

''There are a few names. When I come to a tournament, I see a few new names like Ashleigh Barty. She has a really, really pretty game. I really enjoy watching her,'' Azarenka said when asked who were the best young talents.

''There a lot of young girls. Take Sloane [Stephens] for example. I think she's an incredible person. I remember when she was 16 years old. She came in and we practised together and the amount of work she has done, it's incredible.

''Jamie Hampton, I was really surprised with her game. She has a really good future and she has a great attitude so we'll see her.

''The British girls - Laura [Robson]. She's a terrific player, [Heather] Watson as well. I mean, I'm still pretty young. I'm just 23. But it seems compared to a 16-year-old girl, I'm like a grandma.''


The young veteran, now into her ninth season on the WTA Tour, is vowing to ''make it happen'' again in 2013 after once more winning the Australian Open to kick-start her year.

Last year, Azarenka parlayed her Open victory into a 26-match winning streak and ultimately landed six titles and occupied the top spot for 48 weeks. She is aiming just as high in 2013. ''I left all my memories in 2012. I kind of cleared my head to make new memories.

''Definitely the big push is going to be the grand slams as usual. And we have a lot of different events and the field is so competitive right now.''

Asked which other slam she'd like to win most, Azarenka said: ''Every one. I mean, you cannot prefer any because they are so different, so special. So it's really, really hard.''

The world No.1 said she was also looking forward to improving her one-from-12 record against nemesis Serena Williams. ''To predict, I never do that. I just try to work hard. I can always say Serena, Maria [Sharapova], Li Na, all these girls, they really push to improve.''