By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Victoria Azarenka is introducing tennis fans Down Under to “the dab.”
“The dab. D-a-b,” Azarenka said, and then spelled, when asked about the distinctive victory salute she has displayed after winning her first two matches at the Australian Open. It entails leaning into a bended elbow and raising the other arm up straight.
“It comes from American football,” Azarenka explained Thursday after hustling through her second-round match against Danka Kovinic to win 6-1, 6-2 in just 63 minutes. “I think it’s really fun. It’s entertaining. I love doing it.”
If Azarenka’s recent performance is any guide, she will be “dabbing” at Melbourne Park for a few rounds to come. In the third round she faces Japanese qualifier Naomi Osaka.
The 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion started 2016 by winning the Brisbane International for her first tournament victory in 28 months. She had entered the Brisbane tournament unseeded after slipping to No. 22 in the rankings at the end of 2015, following two injury-interrupted seasons.
The former No. 1-ranked player is visibly fired up and determined to win. She has dispatched her first two opponents in Melbourne in quick, clinical straight sets with a dominance that puts her on the short list to potentially win the Australian Open — where she could meet No. 1 Serena Williams in the final.
Azarenka speaks of her resurgence as a physical and mental recovery.
“I’m feeling in the best shape body-wise, spirit-wise, everything-wise,” said the 27-year-old Belarussian, who has talked about her perspectives on life and tennis maturing.
“I think where I am in my life is very different. I’m just so happy to be here,” she said during her on-court interview. “I try to play every point like it’s my last.”
And after the last point, comes the victory salute. For those who don’t watch American football, Azarenka explained that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton popularized “dabbing” and “made it viral.”
Newton is known for his enthusiastic victory celebrations, which include a Superman move where he pretends to rip open his shirt to reveal an imaginary “S” on his chest. He has been criticized by some for excessive “dabbing” when he scores touchdowns.
So far, Azarenka has not elicited any criticism, just curiosity among those wondering what she’s doing.
“We happen to have the same agent, so I just wanted to make my agent smile at first,” Azarenka said about Newton. “Then Cam heard I started doing it. I don’t know, I just love the sign. I think it’s cool.”
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