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.

Comments  

Gayle headlines Windies stars in auction

NEW DELHI, India, CMC Superstar Chris Gayle headlines several top-tier West Indies players who will join over 1 000 players in the highly anticipated Indian Premier League auction scheduled for month end.

Windies hold no fear for confident Irish

BELFAST, Ireland, CMC Two-time former 50-overs champions West Indies maybe the highest seeded side in the ICC World Cup qualifiers but they hold no terrors for minnows Ireland.

Expectation for tournament at an all-time high

With only one day remaining for the registration process of the Guinness Greatest of the Streets West Demerara/East Bank Demerara zone, approximately 24 teams have submitted their participation forms for the qualifying stages.

Top performers to use final round game to stake WI claim-Coach Crandon

Coach of the already crowned champions of the 2017/18 edition of Cricket West Indies Regional four-day first-class championships, Esaun Crandon, has suggested that there will be little tinkering to the squad set to take on the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force in their final round match, which begins at the Guyana National Stadium tomorrow.

By ,

GCA aims to resume city competitions on January 27

Cricket action in the City is set to take shape January 27 as the Georgetown Cricket Association (GCA) aims to conclude a number of tournaments that would have rolled over from 2017.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built stabroeknews.com using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now

×