‘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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Kristina Mladenovic Dropped By Coach After Six Months

The 26-year-old reacts to the unexpected departure of her mentor.

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Former top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic has suffered an off-court blow following the departure of her coach Sascha Bajin.

 

The 26-year-old had been working with Bajin since April and has made steady progress on the tour by rising more than 20 places to back inside the world’s top 40. Last Month Mladenovic reached the semi-finals of the Zhengzhou Open, in what was one of her best runs on the WTA Tour this year. During 2019 she has also recorded four wins over top 10 players, including Naomi Osaka when she was No.1 in the world.

It is understood that the departure of Bajin was on his own terms and not of a mutual agreement. Bajin is the former hitting partner of Serena Williams (2008-2015) and help guide Osaka to her two grand slam titles prior to his departure in February. In 2018 he was awarded the inaugural WTA Coach of the Year Award.

“I’m very disappointed about Sasha’s decision not to continue our relationship next season, I enjoyed our work, we had some great wins and I truly felt my game was on the rise again.” Mladenovic wrote on Twitter.
“I think that there was a lot more to achieve together, but I can’t change his opinion and decision. On my side, I am proud of my year and progress and I will keep working hard and build strong to be even better in 2020.”

Last week at the Kremlin Cup Mladenovic reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Belinda Bencic. At the tournament she scored wins over seeded players Anastasija Sevastova and Kiki Bertens. Whilst her season has been mixed, the Frenchwoman believes she has the ability to beat the best players in the world.

“When I put together everything on court I can beat anyone.” She told reporters in Moscow.
“And no matter what the season, no matter what ranking, I always have some upsets here and there but now it is really about coming back in the rankings where I was at my highest. And already this year, I am still not satisfied with my ranking but I have a lot of wins against very good players.”

Mladenovic, who is also a top five doubles player that won the French Open title in June, is currently ranked 39th in the world. She is set set to end the season inside the top 50 for the fifth year in a row.

There has been no information released about who may potentially replace Bajin next year.

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Kristina Mladenovic reaches her second semifinal of the year in Moscow

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Kristina Mladenovic reached her second semifinal this year at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow with a 6-4 2-6 6-1 win over this year’s St. Petersburg and Madrid Kiki Bertens after 2 hours and 7 minutes.

 

Mladenovic scored her fourth top 10 win after beating Naomi Osaka in Dubai, Ashleigh Barty in Rome and Elina Svitolina in Zhengzhou.

Mladenovic has always played very well on Russian soil winning the only title in her career in St. Petersburg in 2017 and finishing runner-up in the same tournament last year.

In the first set Mladenovic fended off a break point in the fourth game with a serve and volley before holding serve with a backhand volley. The French player broke serve with a forehand down the line in the fifth game.

Mladenovic saved three break points, as she attempted to serve the set out. The French player sealed the first set on her second set point after Bertens missed two passing shots and made her 17th unforced error.

Bertens broke twice to build up a 4-0 lead in the second set. Mladenovic pulled one of the two breaks back with a lob in the fifth game, but Bertens won eight of the next nine points to win the second set 6-2 forcing the match the third set.

Mladenovic earned a break point in a long third game in the decisive set and converted it with a winner. The Frenchwoman earned her triple break with consecutive backhand passes to race out to a 5-0 lead. Mladenovic was not able to serve out the match in the sixth game, but she broke again in the seventh game to seal the third set 6-1.

Mladenovic set up a semifinal against Belinda Bencic, who came back from one set down and saved two set points in the first set to beat Belgian qualifier and world number 120 Kirsten Flipkens 7-6 (10-8) 6-1 after 1 hour and 34 minutes.

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Top Seed Elina Svitolina Ousted On Mixed Day For Top Names In Moscow

The world No.4 has suffered a blow heading into the prestigious WTA Finals later this month.

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Elina Svitolina (@usopen on Twitter)

Elina Svitolina’s hopes of claiming her first title of 2019 this week has come to an abrupt end after she crashed out in the second round of the Kremlin Cup on Thursday.

 

The world No.4, who had a bye in the first round, failed to capitalize on some crucial chances  during her 6-2, 1-6, 7-5, loss to Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova. Who was playing a top five opponent for the first time in her career. In the decider, Svitolina twice broke for an opportunity to close out the match. However, her opponent refused to buckle as she clawed her way back to level 4-4 before going on to break Svitolina as she was serving to stay in the match.

“I think it was a really tough match. We were playing well in the third set, it was very tight. Unfortunately, it didn’t go my way,” Said Svitolina.

Thursday’s loss continues the title drought for the 25-year-old, who is yet to win a trophy this season. Svitolina has won at least one WTA title each year since 2014. If she wants to continue that trend, she will need to win the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen. A tournament where her last triumph occurred.

“I will try to recover and be ready for Shenzhen, the last tournament.” She said. “Definitely, I am very positive about going to defend my title. I am looking forward to it. Hopefully I can be ready and try to give everything I got.”

It is the first time Svitolina has lost her opening match in a tournament since Eastbourne back in July.

Meanwhile, Kudermetova is relishing in another milestone during what is a strong end to her 2019 season. Since the US Open, she has reached the semi-finals in both Hiroshima and Tianjin. In Wuhan she also claimed her first ever Premier title in doubles alongside Duan Yingying.

“My tactical plan was to put pressure, to come to the net, because during the rallies from the baseline I had fewer chances.” Kudermetova commented about her latest win.

There was better news for second seed Kiki Bertens. The Dutch player recovered from a set and a break down to see off Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, after more than two hours of play. Saving eight out of the 13 break points she faced during the process.

“It is important for my body to feel well. In the next match I will try to play as aggressive as today and keep fighting for every ball.” Bertens commented during her on-court interview.

The win boosts Bertens’ hopes of qualifying for Shenzhen, which will get underway later this month.  She can secure her place this week in Moscow if she reaches the final. Bertens’ last WTA final appearance was almost three months ago in Palermo, Italy.

Next for Bertens will be Kristina Mladenovic, who knocked out seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. It is only the second time this season Mladenovic has managed to reach back-to-back quarter-finals on the tour. Last week in Linz she lost in the last eight to Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Five out of the eight seeded players have already crashed out of Moscow. Bertens, Alexandrova and Belinda Bencic are the only seeds that remains.

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