By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka will no longer bite her tongue or try to fit into any media-trained "image" as she makes her way on the tennis tour, the Belarusian said at the Australian Open on Saturday.
Azarenka advanced to the fourth round at Melbourne Park with a 6-4 6-4 win over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, a brilliant return to grand slam tennis after her 2014 season was all but wiped out by injury.
The Belarusian has already distinguished herself from some of her more introverted rivals, wearing a loud fluorescent yellow outfit on court and swearing like a trooper at herself during matches when disappointed with her play.
Azarenka took it to another level on Saturday, when she cursed during her courtside interview in front of some 7,000 fans at Margaret Court Arena, using an obscenity to describe her dismay at missing an attempted lob when serving for the match.
The 25-year-old told her interviewer the word could be "bleeped out" and later made no apologies for the 'sailor talk'.
"I'm having a lot more fun," Azarenka, wearing a multi-colored pair of leggings and a trucker's cap backwards, told reporters of her new season.
"I'm just being me. I say what I want to say. I laugh when I want to laugh. I play how I want to play. I grunt when I want to grunt.
"I don't think I've changed as a person. I think I grew as a person. I think I'm able to speak my thoughts more freely, which before I think I was holding back and really was trying to fit into some kind of image that a lot of people, a lot of players do.
"I think it's very important to stay original, to stay yourself, true to yourself, to who you are.
"So I think I had to learn that and just be able to live with that and accept who I am as a person. I still have a lot of room to improve, but I love the way where I'm heading."
A happy Azarenka is likely to mean a tough match for her next opponent Dominika Cibulkova, the pint-sized Slovakian who was a surprise finalist last year.
Though a fierce challenger on court, Azarenka said she was also going out of her way to be more friendly in the locker room, reaching out more to her rivals.
"I just think we all have to forget that tension off the court and really enjoy it," she said. "If we look at other sports, there's so much incredible bond and just relations that I think on the tour we can do much better."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)