Victoria Azarenka: Tennis champion ... and future video star?

    Meet the new Victoria Azarenka
    Meet the new Victoria Azarenka

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    Meet the new Victoria Azarenka 01:46

    Story highlights

    • Victoria Azarenka stars in her own music video
    • Made it with friends in her native Belarus
    • Is one of the favorites at the Australian Open

    (CNN)You might know her as a two-time Australian Open champion, but in 2016 Victoria Azarenka also wants you to know her as an artist and video producer.

    And by the sound of it, her new sideline has helped the tennis star reach a stage in her life where she is the happiest she has ever been.
    The 26-year-old has just won a major warmup for the Australian Open, which is a huge boost after a foot injury in 2014 led to a drop from second in the rankings.
    "The beauty of it is that this happiness doesn't come from a tennis court," Azarenka told CNN by phone from Melbourne in an exclusive interview. "Tennis court, the results, yes it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and knowing that all the work I put in is working. It's a great feeling.
    "But happiness is something way bigger than tennis."
    Surrounded by a revamped entourage that excites her -- in 2015 she hired a new coach in Wim Fissette, brought in Serena Williams' former hitting partner Sascha Bajin and switched management companies -- Azarenka has also been developing a creative outlet beyond her sporting ambitions.
    Following this month's success at the Brisbane tournament, the world No. 16 has released a video -- a collaboration with her friends -- showcasing that artistic side.
    Shot at night in October in her hometown of Minsk -- yes, she did it during the busy tennis season -- Azarenka can be seen stretching, running, skipping and working with rope and weights.
    But this isn't your typical fitness video. Azarenka turns street artist, creating a graffiti mural -- though she admits her role in the painting was minimal, and that she just might be the character riding a motorcycle.
    She wouldn't say for sure, though. "I can't tell you that," she said with a chuckle. "That's a secret."

    Azarenka DNA

    Artistic talent is in the Azarenka family genes -- her mother Alla is a designer who paints. And the player herself turned to painting to help combat depression in 2014, the year she endured a painful breakup with recording artist and tennis fan Redfoo.
    Anyone who has watched Azarenka regularly knows she loves music and enters the court wearing headphones.
    The idea for the nearly two-minute video, meanwhile, came to her during a run.
    "I was like, 'I have to do this video,'" Azarenka says. "I told it to my friend and he said, 'That sounds good.'
    "Then I was at one of my best friends' birthday party and I was sitting next to a guy who is a movie and music producer. And it just happened."
    Williams, a rival yet also a friend, can be heard on the video saying, "People sometimes are like, 'Oh, will she come back?' Well of course she will. She's great. She's Victoria Azarenka. She can do anything that she wants to do."
    Azarenka didn't know the world No. 1 would feature in the video.
    "This was my friend's idea," Azarenka said. "I had nothing to do with it. I didn't recognize Serena's voice at first. I was like, 'Who is that? Who is that person talking? Are you serious?' That was taken out of one of her press conferences.
    "And I was like, 'It was pretty nice of her to say that.'"

    Exciting path

    Azarenka's message in the video is simple: To show the dedication of an elite athlete but in a creative manner, and she hopes it will boost the profile of women's tennis.
    "I wouldn't say I'm starting to create a brand for myself," says Azarenka, who is approaching $26 million in prize money.
    "But I do think it's really important that what I want to create is something that will stand out, and whatever I do in the future, any kind of project, it will have my signature on it.
    "I want to maximize my potential. And when I talk about that, don't get me wrong -- I'm not talking about just making money.
    "I just want to be able to show who I really am, what I can do, bring awareness, create something because I want to take tennis, women's tennis, into an even more exciting path because I believe we have a lot more things to offer.

    This is kind of perfect 🌊🌊🌊 #aloha

    A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

    "Sports is a huge entertainment now and we need to provide that entertainment for the fans because that's what they're looking for. I love my fans and they're diehard fans ... I love them so much. And that's why I feel that responsibility to do something, to share that world that I have."
    It's tough growing up in the spotlight, admits Azarenka, who changed management agencies in August, from Lagardere Sports and Entertainment to IMG.
    "I think when you're young, you just are coming up, you have all these things and you don't know what to focus on, so you get lost," she says.
    "In my personal case, I lost my intuition, my inner voice and what I feel. And it took me a lot of self-work, doing a reassessment of how I feel and what I want to do, and definitely changing the team helped.
    "But I think it all started from taking responsibility in making a difference and willing to change."

    Favorite in Melbourne?

    Back on court, Azarenka captured the title in Brisbane without coming close to dropping a set.
    Not always a crowd favorite due to her shrieks and blunt nature in press conferences, this time she endeared herself to fans around the world by inviting a nine-year-old to the trophy presentation and allowing her to hold the trophy.
    This success, allied to an injury-free start to the season and strong past performances in Melbourne including titles in 2012 and 2013, arguably makes Azarenka one of the favorites, if not the favorite, at the Australian Open, which starts on January 18.
    Even more so given the fitness problems of her rivals -- defending champion Williams is nursing a knee injury; five-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova withdrew from Brisbane with an arm issue; world No. 2 Simona Halep pulled out due to an ongoing Achilles complaint; and Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza retired in Brisbane with a foot injury.
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    Despite her sizzling form and positive mindset, Azarenka remains cautious about her prospects.
    "If you would say to me, 'When you won in 2013, you must have been feeling unbelievable?' Well I couldn't hit the ball inside the court before that event," says the former world No. 1, ousted by 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round in Melbourne last year.
    "I felt really bad in practice but no one knows about it. So you kind of assume, 'She was playing great because she won.' It never happens, I think.
    "It's just a matter of what you do when things don't go your way, or how you feel on that particular day. For me I am looking a little bit ahead, but it's what can I do today to be better, ready on Monday to start the tournament? I'm thinking a little bit shorter term to be able to be ready on Monday."
    Slightly longer term, a third Australian Open title on January 30 would be music to Azarenka's ears.