Azarenka faces headwinds in back-to-back bid

MELBOURNE, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Accused of gamesmanship and dogged by injury, Victoria Azarenka’s bid for successive Australian Open titles on Saturday will pit her against an opponent in the form of her life and a centre-court crowd wary of any hint of bad sportsmanship.

The Belarusian will take on sixth seed Li Na, who has not dropped a set all tournament and boosted her sky-high confidence further by demolishing last year’s finalist Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-2 in the semi-finals.

Azarenka’s performance against American Sloane Stephens was less assured, and marred by controversy when the top seed took a near-10 minute medical timeout after blowing five match-points.

Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka
Li Na
Li Na

Azarenka returned to the court with jeers from the crowd, and after closing it out on the sixth match-point, added fuel to the fire by telling the on-court interviewer she nearly had “the choke of the year.”

Slammed on social media and grilled by reporters, Azarenka denied she had taken the timeout to calm her nerves, saying it was to receive treatment for a rib injury that was restricting her breathing.

Medical staff confirmed the treatment, according to tournament director Craig Tiley, and the 23-year-old tried to clear the air in an interview with the host broadcaster Channel Seven on Friday.

“It wasn’t really pleasant but there are some things that you have to deal with and some things you have to learn from,” said Azarenka of the controversy.

“The important thing is just to move forward and have a great match tomorrow.”

If Azarenka requires any additional motivation on Saturday, she knows she will lose her world number one ranking to Serena Williams if she fails to take the title.

The public relations exercise is unlikely to win much of the Rod Laver Arena crowd back to her corner, especially against an opponent like Li, who lost in the 2011 final to Kim Clijsters and remains a sentimental favourite at Melbourne Park.

More in Sports

MVP Shemaine Campbelle accepts her MVP trophy from Match
Referee Grantley Culbard.

Guyana whip Leewards by 96 runs in WICB Women’s T20 tourney

Unbeaten half centuries from Shemaine Campbelle and Lashauna Toussaint helped Guyana hammer the Leeward Islands by 96 runs in the final round of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Regional Women’s T20 tournament.

Dexter Gonsalves

Corley looking to chop down Gonsalves come August

Former world champion, DeMarcus ’Chop Chop’ Corley (46-27-1, 26 KO’s)’s career has seen him fight in more than 15 countries across the globe.

brenessa et al

Local athletes, chef-de-mission set to depart for Rio

With 10 days until the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the world’s best athletes are starting to arrive in the host nation.

default placeholder

Defending champs storm into semi-finals

Defending champions Wismar/ Christianburg Secondary stormed their way into the semi-finals of the Digicel Schools football championships by dismantling Region #6 winners Tutorial Secondary 6-0 in their quarterfinal fixture yesterday at the Leonora Sports Facility.

default placeholder

FIFA ethics panel bans ex-head of German FA for one year

ZURICH, (Reuters) – FIFA’s Ethics Committee has banned Wolfgang Niersbach, the former president of the German Football Association, for one year for failing to report potential misconduct surrounding the award of the 2006 soccer World Cup in Germany.

default placeholder

Michael Jordan speaks against both police killings, targeting of police

(Reuters) Basketball legend Michael Jordan spoke out on police violence yesterday and announced two $1 million grants, to civil rights group NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and to a group that works on improving police relations with communities.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: