Victoria Azarenka has just successfully defended her Australian Open title and held her place at the top of the world rankings. The Belarusian’s victory over Na Li in the final will surely have helped her to strengthen her position as one of the game’s elite players, and indicates that we might see Vika continue to be a major force in the WTA for the foreseeable future.
Sadly, reports of her triumph have been largely twinned with murmurs of disapproval about a certain controversial timeout during the semi-finals. For those of you who haven’t seen any tennis news for the past few days, Azarenka called a medical break at 5-4 up in the second set against
Sloane Stephens, having just dropped serve and five match points. Stephens had her serve broken in the next game, leading many to cry foul play based on the loss of momentum suffered by the American.
Azarenka entered her final against Li with the crowd against her. Throughout the contest you could hear encouragement for the Chinese star coming from all sections of the stadium. Support for Azarenka was almost non-existent. “I was expecting way worse, to be honest actually,” said Vika of the crowd’s response after the tie. Who can blame her? The press had certainly hounded her about the timeout in the few days leading up to the final.
“What can you do? You just have to go out there and try to play tennis in the end of the day,” added Azarenka. “That’s what it was all about. It’s a tennis match, tennis battle, final of the Australian Open. I was there to play that.”
“The things what happened in the past, I did the best thing I could to explain, to do everything I could, and it was left behind me already. So when I went into the match, I was really focused on trying to play that particular match, the most important match of the tournament, That one thing that I just have to go and do, and that’s it.”
In Azarenka’s defence, the heat in Melbourne has been sweltering over the past few days, and whilst the timing of her timeout seemed to be a tad suspicious, nobody but Vika can truly know if she needed medical support when she called for it. She’s stuck to her story and may well be telling the truth. Getting on her back seems a touch unfair.
To add to this, Stephens didn’t express any sense of injustice after her semi-final loss. Any talk about loss of momentum is all well and good, but few people seem to have noted that Stephens remained seated during the timeout, opting not to practice her serve and stay warm. Perhaps she was unaware that she was allowed to get back on court, but again, it’s hard to tell.
What I’m saying here is that Vika has been punished enough, and she hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong. The medical timeout rule is there for a reason, and injuries occur at all times during matches. Players can’t be expected to play on just because a match is entering a crucial phase or moment.
Instead, we should be glad that in Azarenka we have a genuine talent who is taking the WTA by storm. Her rivalries with Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Na Li and others promise to provide loads of entertainment over the next few years. Let’s not let a media storm overshadow this.
Also, tennis is a sport that can be proud of its fans, but the image of tennis fans as polite and considerate sports lovers will be tarnished if people choose to dwell on every suspicious incident. Courts shouldn’t be hostile arenas for players, unless they’ve done something to truly deserve it. This can’t be said of Azarenka.
Written by Ian Horne from Livestreamingsport.com, an award-winning sports, news and live stream website.