When Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open crown in 2011, it formed the early stages of a magnificent 43-match undefeated run that extended until May and incorporated seven titles. Victoria Azarenka did something similar when she won at Melbourne Park in 2012, her victory part of a 26-0 start to the season – the best since Martina Hingis in 1997 – that reaped four titles and the No.1 ranking.
After winning the Australian Open titles again in 2013, Djokovic and Azarenka are again, somewhat unsurprisingly, undefeated this season.
Since beating Andy Murray in a brutal four-set final at Rod Laver Arena in late January, Djokovic’s activity has been slightly limited. He reappeared briefly the weekend after the Australian Open – winning one singles rubber to help Serbia defeat Belgium in their Davis Cup World Group first round tie – before taking a break for three weeks.
Yet the extended absence didn’t seem to have affected his game when he returned at the ATP 500 event in Dubai, with the Serb straight-setting all opposition on his way to his fourth title in the Middle East.
His record so far in 2013 stands at 13-0 and $2.9 million in prizemoney – not bad considering the season is less than three months old.
Azarenka has followed much the same pattern, contesting just one event since winning at Melbourne Park. That was at the WTA Premier 5 event in Doha, a field stacked with top 10 talent and one that Azarenka successfully navigated to claim her second title of the season.
Most impressive was her victory in the final over the illustrious Serena Williams, who just days earlier had secured the world No.1 ranking by winning her quarterfinal against Petra Kvitova. Staring down an opponent who had won their last nine matches, Azarenka played exquisite tennis to defeat Williams in a high-quality three-set final. Paradoxically, she dropped to No.2 after recording one of the best victories of her young career.
Not that the Belarusian minded. Her 2013 stats read almost identically to Djokovic’s – a 14-0 start to the season, and $2.9 million in prizemoney.
Both appear to understand that sufficient rest is key to sustaining their brilliance. And they’ve learned that the hard way. Towards the end of 2011, Djokovic was merely a shadow of the player who’d stormed through the tour earlier that season, with exhaustion clearly a factor in his subdued results post-US Open. After her rip-roaring start to the 2012 season, Azarenka suffered a noticeable dip from Miami through to the end of the claycourt season, before rediscovering her game.
The pair hopes to be rested and refreshed ahead of the US spring hardcourt season, a period on the tennis calendar during which they have historically thrived. Azarenka is the defending champion at Indian Wells and a two-time Miami champion, while Djokovic is the reigning Miami titleholder and has also hoisted the trophy at Indian Wells twice previously.
“I like playing also Indian Wells and in Miami. I won a lot of times there, I think few times each tournament,” Djokovic said following his victory over Tomas Berdych in the Dubai final.
“So I look forward to it. I'm going to have six, seven days of rest and try to enjoy my time a bit and then getting ready.”
With plenty of time to prepare, and with confidence sky-high coming into the American swing, both Djokovic and Azarenka will be hard to stop as they look to continue their winning ways.