"I think confidence is very overrated," said world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka after defeating Sam Stosur 6-1, 6-2 in the Doha finals for her 17th-straight win to open the 2012 season.
That sounds exactly like something the most confident player on the WTA might say. Azarenka won her opening tournament of the season, took home her first Grand Slam, ascended to No. 1 and then consolidated the ranking with the win in Doha. Her rise comes exactly one year after she says her game "was a little bit of a mess." Now she's playing through injuries, hitting her groundstrokes with power and precision and putting away top-ten opponents in the first set.
Though it's too early to make comparisons to Novak Djokovic's run at the beginning of 2012, the whispers are already there. A win in Dubai this week would turn them into legitimate conversation.
Some facts from Azarenka's undefeated start:
• She became the first player since 2004 to win her first three tournaments of the year. Justine Henin won Sydney, Australia and Dubai that year. One year earlier, Serena Williams won her first three events (spread out over a longer time frame) in Australia, Paris and Miami.
• The longest win streak to open a season in the past 15 seasons belongs to Martina Hingis. In 1997, she won 37 matches in a row. The streak was eventually snapped in the French Open final.
• Steffi Graf holds the record for the longest season-starting streak. The German won 45-straight matches at the beginning of her dominant 1987 campaign.
• Azarenka plays her next match Wednesday in Dubai. With each successive win, she'll generate more comparisons to Djokovic and his record start to last season. But you could also make the comparison to Djokovic's 2012. Through Feb. 21, the world No. 1 is still undefeated on the year. He's 7-0.
- Victoria Azarenka
- Novak Djokovic