‘Tennis Is My Job, It’s Not My Life:' Victoria Azarenka Reflects On Form After Madrid Exit - UBITENNIS
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‘Tennis Is My Job, It’s Not My Life:’ Victoria Azarenka Reflects On Form After Madrid Exit

The 29-year-old gives an estimate of how much longer she will continue playing.

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Rafael Nadal (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, cpyright @Sport Vision)

MADRID: It was once again another frustrating day at the office for two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka at the Madrid Open.

Taking on Sloane Stephens, who she lost to three times in 2018, the former world No.1 succumbed to a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, loss during what was a roller coaster encounter. At first, it seemed as if the American had broken Azarenka’s belief in the match during the closing stages of the opening set. Bouncing back from 0-40, to break and secure the 6-4 lead. However, she refused to back down as she staged a mid-match resurgence to revive her match hopes.

Ultimately it was a single break that proved critical to the match outcome. Six games into the decider, an Azarenka backhand error gifted Stephens a chance to break for 4-2. An opportunity she seized with the help of a forehand winner. Cruising towards the finish line, it was the mistakes of her opponent that guided the eighth seed into the third round. Much to the disappointment of the two-time grand slam champion.

“I felt that I really was taking all the control from the baseline points. I felt that I was doing the right things. I was moving the ball around. I was moving well. And I was playing smart tennis.” Azarenka said during her press conference.
“But I didn’t create anything with my serve today and it was really frustrating. I didn’t really have a game plan.”

Since returning back to the tour in 2016 from giving birth to her son Leo, the 29-year-old has endured far from a smooth journey. Besides issues in her personal life, injury has also impacted on her progress. During April she reached her first WTA final in three years but was forced to retire due to a left leg issue. Then in Stuttgart, it was a shoulder problem that forced her out of the draw.

Despite her turbulent run with injury, Azarenka sees the positives in her overall game. One would assume that the older a person gets, the harder they find it to maintain their health. However, Azarenka has her own interpretation.

“I feel that I’m a lot healthier now than I was four or five years ago. And in 2014, 2015, there was a lot of injuries for me, a lot of frustrations.” She explained.
“I had an unfortunate couple of things in the last two tournaments that I played. They weren’t big injuries. There was a lot of tennis for me, a lot of travel that I have to be a little smarter with my schedule. But overall, I feel pretty good. I don’t think that there’s big issues.”

The future

Two months shy of her 30th birthday, the Belarusian estimates that she has roughly five years left on the tour. Give or take. Stepping away from something that has been such a big part of her life will be far from easy, but Azarenka isn’t afraid. Thanks to life as a parent.

“I feel that I have about five more years till my son has to go to school to give myself the best shot and give the best effort because tennis is my job, it’s not my life.” Azarenka states.
“But I want to make sure that I have done everything I can in this time period and we’ll see what happens.”

Fortunately, whilst she remains a player Azarenka is determined to make the most of her time on the tour. It has been 26 months since she was last in the world’s top 20 and 38 months since she achieved the sunshine double in America.

“I have to work and I have to do things so I do that sacrifice and I take that job really seriously because when I do do my job, is the limited time I’m away from my son and I’m going to make sure I put 100 percent in doing the best I can otherwise I won’t be doing it.” She concludes.

So far in her career, Azarenka has spent 52 weeks as world no.1 and won 20 WTA titles.

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Krejcikova Comes Alive With Her Serve To Win 12th Grand Slam Title At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

It must have seemed like the whole world was against her when Barbora Krejcikova served for the match for a third time against crowd favorite Jasmine Paolini.

But Krejcikova was only going for her 12th Grand Slam title. She was well prepared.

So, she released her patented way-out-wide serve to the smallish Paolini’s backhand, and the best the Italian could do was get her racket on the ball enough to return the serve far off the court, long and wide.

ARMS UP FOR A CHAMPION

The weight of the world was gone as Krejcikova threw her arms over her head and calmly walked to the net to greet the Wimbledon runner-up.

Now, Krejcikova was half-way home to a career Grand Slam in singles. She already owns a career Grand Slam in doubles among her dozen Grand Slam titles that also include one mixed doubles Grand Slam title.

She has won the hard ones, the French Open on clay and Wimbledon on grass.

At 28 years old, anything must look possible to this 5-10 Czech.

KREJCIKOVA COMES THROUGH UNDER PRESSURE

Paolini simply was out played in a second straight Grand Slam final, on clay and on grass. Now she faces the real tests, two straight Grand Slam tournaments on hard surfaces that might not be overly friendly to the 5-4 Paolini.

But there it was, a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory for Krejcikova on Wimbledon’s famed Center Court.

After what might be called a throw-away second set for Krejcikova, she came alive in the third set, pinning Paolini to the deep corners while nailing low hard-hit balls to both corners.

Krejcikova got off to 40-0 starts on her first four service games of the decisive set and ended all four with service winners to take a 5-3 lead (with the aid of the only service break of the third set). She yielded only one point in those four service games, a double fault at 40-0 that was followed by an ace.

Of course, it was the serve again that saved the day for Krejcikova and gave her set points two and three, then sealed the deal for a spot in Wimbledon history.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Wimbledon Finalist Jasmine Paolini – ‘I’m A Little Bit Scared To Dream Too Much’

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After coming close to her maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Jasmine Paolini believes consistency is key to having another shot at glory.

The 28-year-old dropped only one set en route to becoming the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon final. However, she was denied the title by Barbora Krejcikova, who won in three sets. Paolini was broken once in the decider which was due to a double fault from the Italian following an unsuccessful hawk-eye challenge made on her first serve. Then she failed to convert two break points when down 4-5 before Krejcikova held to seal glory.

“I started bad,” she reflected afterwards.

“I took some time and try to relax and to come back in the second set stronger to try to push the ball more because I was a little bit controlling too much, and I missed a lot of shots.

“She was playing, honestly, very good the first set. She was serving really, really good. High percentage of first serves.

“It was tough but I think I did better than the last final (at the French Open), but still it’s not enough.”

Prior to Saturday, Paolini had scored wins over former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, Medison Keys (via retirement) and a marathon victory over Donna Vedic. She has now won 15 Grand Slam matches in 2024 compared to just one last season.

The defeat comes less than two months after the French Open where Paolini contested her first major final but lost in two sets to world No.1 Iga Swiatek. Since the start of this season, she has risen more than 20 places in the rankings and will reach No.5 on Monday.

Despite being in her late 20s, the Italian is producing some of her best tennis on the Tour. Something she credits to a combination of things. 

“I improved my game a little bit. I believe more in myself. I improved my serve. I think I improve the return.” She explained.

“I think physically I’m better than two years ago. I’ve been working with a new fitness coach for one-and-a-half years.

“There are many things, I think. Not just one. I think also winning matches helps a lot.”

Whilst she is heading in the right direction on the Tour, Paolini has vowed not to get too ahead of herself.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit scared to dream too much.” she said.

“I’m going back, trying to practice and stay in the present. This is the goal for me and my team, to try to keep this level as much as possible.

“If I keep this level, I think I can have the chance to do great things.

“Today I was dreaming of holding the (Wimbledon) trophy but it didn’t go well.

“I’m just enjoying the position where I am right now.”

Paolini has won 30 out of 43 matches on the Tour so far this season.

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Jasmine Paolini’s Wimbledon Run Hailed By Italian Prime Minister

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The Prime Minister of Italy has praised Jasmine Paolini for lighting up the hearts of others during her Wimbledon run. 

Paolini missed out on her first Grand Slam title to Barbora Krejcikova, who prevailed in three sets to capture her second major trophy. Despite her defeat, she has made history at the tournament by becoming the first female player from her country to reach the final. Until this year, she had never won a Tour-level main draw match on the grass. 

Whilst disappointed about missing out on the biggest title of her career, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni posted a tribute to Paolini on social media just moments after the final had concluded.

“Proud of Jasmine Paolini,” The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) quotes Meloni as saying. 

“The first Italian tennis player to reach the final of the prestigious Wimbledon tournament. 

“Despite the defeat, you lit up the hearts of the Italian people, succeeding in conveying grit and passion to all of us who supported you”. 

Paolini is the first player ranked outside the top five to reach the final of both Wimbledon and the French Open within the same year since the ranking system was introduced in 1975. She is also only the fourth female player in the Open Era to have reached her first two Grand Slam finals in the same year at Roland Garros and Wimbledon after Chris Evert (1973), Olga Morozova (1974) and Steffi Graf (1987). 

Should she win three or more matches at the US Open later this year, she will also set a new Open Era record for the most Grand Slam wins achieved by an Italian female player in a single season. 

“The last two months have been crazy for me. I want to thank my team, and my family. They always support me and I wouldn’t be here without them. The crowd have been amazing. I received a lot of support. Just incredible to feel the love from them, I enjoy it so much.” Paolini said following her Wimbledon defeat. 

The 28-year-old will rise to a ranking high of No.3 on Monday. 

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