Victoria Azarenka scores in Australia
It has been 10 years since former world number one Victoria Azarenka last reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open. At Rod Laver Arena that year, the Belarusian, who was at the top of his game, won his second and final major title to date.
But this conquest was also marked by controversy. In the semifinals, “Vika” took a 10-minute medical break near the end of the second set.
Day’s opponent, American Sloane Stephens, saved three match points to break her and make it 5-4.
Returning from the dressing room, Azarenka broke and won the next game. He then told ESPN that he “needs to calm down.”
The match took place in the sweltering heat in Melbourne and the young champion “couldn’t breathe”.
“It was like I had a heart attack,” he said.
At a press conference held a little later, he corrected himself, saying that he had misunderstood the question asked by the American network. “The reason I can’t breathe is because my back is stuck,” he said.
His worst moment
This long medical break and this adjustment has drawn a lot of criticism from the Belarusian tennis world. Azarenka was called a liar on social networks.
Clearly, this episode made its mark. A decade later, the 33-year-old called the episode the “worst moment” of her career after her inspired play in Tuesday’s quarter-final to beat third-seeded American Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1.
“How I was treated, I had to explain myself until 10.30pm because no one wanted to believe me…”, dropped the number 24 in Melbourne.
There are no villains and no heroes
The former top 10’s eyes were unreadable at the time, as he wore sunglasses to prevent the light from giving him a migraine at the press conference.
But the tone created some doubt. Azarenka still had to settle. “Do you know what really happened 10 years ago? This is the problem,” he replied to the journalist who questioned him on this topic.
A fortnight before kick-off, Serbian Novak Djokovic lamented being portrayed as a “bad guy” in the media after his Australian visa was revoked last year.
The Belarusian echoed the words of the man with 21 major titles on Tuesday.
“Sometimes there’s an incredible desire to write a story with a villain and a hero,” he said. But we’re not villains or heroes, we’re normal people who go through a lot and a lot.”
“Assumptions and judgments, these comments are stupid because nobody knows the background of the story. I explained several times, no one believed me.
“It took me 10 damn years to get over it. I finally did it.”
Accept the fear and anxiety
Aside from that episode, Azarenka said she has worked for six months to calm the anxiety that sometimes grips her on court and has plagued part of her career.
The veteran said: “I’m trying to accept this anxiety, this fear that lives inside me. Being neither positive nor negative on the field, just neutral.”
It seems that it has been working for “Vika” since the beginning of two weeks, because sometimes she looks like yesterday’s Azarenka.
But don’t tell him. He doesn’t like this expression.
Don’t think about the title
Still, the Belarusian returns to the semifinals of this Australian Open, the scene of only two Grand Slam titles in his career.
She will face Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, the No. 22 seed and last year’s Wimbledon champion, on or after Wednesday night (Eastern time).
Now that she has moved on from the events of 10 years ago, does Azarenka believe she is ready to finally hit the treble in Melbourne?
“It is too early to think about it. I believe the answers I gave you earlier about my current mindset let you know that I don’t want to think about winning right away.