Victoria Azarenka advances after respite in the Hamptons

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns a shot against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns a shot against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium in the second round of play at the 2012 U.S. Open tennis tournament. (Aug. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Victoria Azarenka is getting comfortable. So comfortable, she may move in.

The women's No. 1 player and the Open's No. 1 seed is from Belarus, but as an international athlete home is where the rackets are. She has become so comfortable in New York she's looking to buy a place in Manhattan, and this month did the Hamptons thing, renting a house in Bridgehampton for 10 days.

Azarenka's 6-2, 6-2 win over Kirsten Flipkens Wednesday was a day in the Hamptons -- sunny, breezy and relatively easy.

She made the game look easy at the start of this season, winning her first 26 matches. That was four straight tournament wins, including her first major at the Australian Open, where she crushed Maria Sharapova in the final. She won a bronze medal at the Olympics, losing to Serena Williams in the semis.

After the London Games she was looking for a break, and heard good things about the Hamptons. So she and her team rented a house -- with a pool, near the ocean, natch -- and chilled.

"I had heard so much about the Hamptons,'' Azarenka said Wednesday. "It had a lot of good restaurants, the ocean was great, it was so beautiful. So we decided to go and we liked it a lot.''

Instead of frequenting restaurants every night, she discovered the joys of the local markets.

"The vegetables, the fruits, the fresh seafood, they were amazing,'' Azarenka said. "So we stayed in a lot and I cooked, which I enjoy doing. I really enjoyed the place.''

She is also intent on getting a New York place. "You have absolutely everything here,'' she said. "You have so many different cultures, so many different people. And you can get away from it, too, to like the Hamptons or Connecticut. New York is one of my favorite places in the whole world.''

The Open, however, has never been a place Azarenka has excelled, though she was the Open junior champion in 2005. She never has been past the fourth round of the main draw, going that far only once in six previous Opens. Her third-round opponent is Zheng Jie.

"I don't feel like I have to prove something. I don't have anything that, you know, it's the third round or I have to win,'' she said.

But the stakes, and the expectations, are so much higher for her at the Open this year.

"There is more attention that people expect you to play better'' said the steely competitor who says she isn't concerned about her ranking. "For me, I always take it match by match no matter what my ranking is. I have been doing it for pretty much my whole career.''

Could the Hamptons thing be an annual routine, especially if she got a place in New York?

"Yeah, maybe,'' said Azarenka, who did find one thing disconcerting about the Hamptons. "There was so much traffic. How do you have so much traffic when you have just little villages?''

Sounds like a Hamptonite already.

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