Victoria Azarenka ‘Resonates’ With Djokovic Over Injury Doubters - UBITENNIS
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Victoria Azarenka ‘Resonates’ With Djokovic Over Injury Doubters

The former world No.1 reflects on ‘one of the worst moments of her career’ that took place at Melbourne Park.

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Victoria Azarenka in action against Serena Williams during a women's singles match at the 2020 US Open. (Photo by Simon Bruty/USTA)

Victoria Azarenka says she has sympathy for Novak Djokovic who has faced questions over the validity of his hamstring injury after going through a similar situation. 

 

21-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic came into the Australian Open with concerns over a hamstring problem which he underwent treatment on earlier this month at the Adelaide International. During some matches, he was seen moving tentatively at times but more recently such issues have not been seen. On Monday he thrashed Alex de Minaur in straight sets with a clinical performance in the fourth round. 

Shortly after his latest win, Djokovic was asked by Serbian media to comment on some reports suggesting that he has implied that his injury is more serious than it is. Meanwhile, when asked about the former world No.1’s current fitness de Minaur responded ‘either I’m not a good enough tennis player to expose that or… it looked good to me.’ The Australian later said on social media that his remarks were taken out of context and he was simply outplayed. 

“I leave the doubting to those people – let them doubt,” said Djokovic, who faced similar questions at the 2021 Australian Open when he was nursing an abdominal issue. “Only my injuries are questioned. When some other players are injured, then they are the victims, but when it is me, I am faking it. It is very interesting… I don’t feel that I need to prove anything to anyone.’ 
“I am not really interested at this point in what people are thinking and saying. It is fun, it is interesting to see how the narrative surrounding me continues, narrative that is different compared to other players that have been going through similar situations. But I am used to it, and it just gives me extra strength and motivation. So I thank them for that.”

However, Djokovic isn’t the only player to have faced scrutiny over his fitness. Azarenka was in a similar situation back in 2013 when she played Sloane Stephens in the Australian Open semi-finals. Ranked No.1 at the time, she took a 10-minute timeout after failing to serve out the match and squandering five match points. At the time she was accused of bending the rules with Stephens’ former coach, David Nainkin, suggesting that she cheated.

The incident continues to be a raw subject for Azarenka who said following her latest win over Jessica Pegula at the Australian Open that it was ‘one of the worst moments of her career.’ 

“The way I was treated after that moment, the way I had to explain myself until 10:30 p.m at night because people didn’t want to believe me. I actually can resonate with what Novak said the other day.” Azarenka told reporters. 
“There is sometimes an incredible desire for a villain and a hero story that has to be written. But we’re not villains, we’re not heroes, we are regular human beings that go through so many, many things. Assumptions and judgments, all those comments, are just s**t because nobody’s there to see the full story. It didn’t matter how many times I said my story, it did not cut through.”
“t took me 10 f***ing years to get over it. I am finally over that.”

Over time, 33-year-old Azarenka says she has learned to cope with such situations by being more confident in herself. So far in her career she has won 21 Tour titles and has held the No.1 position for 51 weeks. 

“I’ve been called that I’m cheating, that I’m faking, that I was trying to throw people off their game. It’s everything that is so wrong about my character if somebody actually knows me,” she said. 
“Now I just don’t care. I am more and more confident in what I know about myself, and I’m at peace with that. Those comments, judgments, they’re there. I notice them. But I don’t care.” 

Azarenka will play Elena Rybakina in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. She now has won 153 Grand Slam matches which places her joint-13th for the most wins by a female singles player in the Open Era. 

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Alycia Parks Stuns Garcia To Win First Tour Title In Lyon

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Image via WTA Twitter

Rising star Alycia Parks is on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 50 for the first time after stunning world No.4 Caroline Garcia in straight sets to win the Lyon Open. 

 

22-year-old Parks, who contested just three WTA main draws last year, battled to a 7-6(7), 7-5, win over Garcia who is the first top-five player she has beaten on the Tour. Throughout the final, the American didn’t drop serve after saving all four break points she faced. In total, she produced 28 winners with 15 of those being aces. It is only the second time she has beaten a top 10 player on the Tour after Maria Sakkari at the Ostrava Open last year. 

“I want to thank you for all coming out, this title means a lot to me,” Parks said afterwards. “France has a special part in my heart right now. I want to congratulate Garcia, you had an amazing week, keep playing how you’re playing.”

The victory caps off what has been a breakthrough week for Parks who dropped two sets in five matches played which was in her opening two rounds. Earlier in the tournament, she also defeated seventh seed Danka Kovinic and fourth seed Petra Martic to become only the third unseeded player to win a WTA event so far this year.  

Parks was ranked 199th in the world 12 months ago but has climbed up the rankings and is now set to break into the world’s top 70 for the first time on Monday. Towards the end of last year, she won back-to-back WTA 125 tournaments and has now won 16 out of her last 17 matches played. Her only loss was to Czech teenager Sara Bejlek in the second round of qualifying at the Australian Open.

As for Garcia, Sunday’s clash was the first time she had contested a WTA final in her home city of Lyon. Coming into her clash with Parks, she had won 10 out of her last 11 finals played on the Tour. It is the 40th time in her career she has lost to an American player in a WTA main draw.

Congrats on an amazing week and the (past) couple of months have been unbelievable (for you),” said Garcia. “It’s your first WTA title today and it was well deserved. You played amazing and if you keep playing like this you are for sure going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks, who graduated from High School in 2019, is coached on the Tour by her father Michael who has been her main mentor since childhood. 

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Garbine Muguruza Switches Focus From Ranking Points To Enjoyment In Hunt For Form

Ranked outside the WTA top 80 for the first time since 2013, Muguruza is hoping to stage a comeback with the help of a new perspective.

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Garbine Muguruza (ESP) waves to the crowd after defeating Fiona Ferro (FRA) on No.2 Court in the first round of the Ladies' Singles at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 1 Monday 28/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

To say that last year was tough for Gabine Muguruza is a bit of an understatement. 

 

The Spaniard started 2022 among the best players in the world and was ranked No.3 as a result of her triumph at the WTA Finals just a couple of months earlier. However, the year didn’t go as planned for two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza who won just 12 matches. In total, she played in 17 tournaments but only managed to score back-to-back victories in two of them. In October she plummeted down the rankings from 13th to 57th. 

Muguruza’s problems have continued into this season. She is yet to win a match and is now down to 82nd in the world which is her lowest position in almost a decade. January 2013 was the last time the 29-year-old was ranked outside the top 100. 

“I’ve had so many moments in my career where I’ve been so high, and other moments when I’ve not been so high. It’s a process of trying to get back up there,” the former world No.1 told The National. “Now I’m focusing on training hard and being humble.
“You have to know that maybe you haven’t had the success recently as you had in other years, but that’s fine because things can change very quickly.
“With tennis, one week it can go wrong, then next week it can go well, then everything changes again. I think experience helps me to stay calm in the not-so-good moments when I haven’t been playing as well or results haven’t followed.”

It is a frustrating situation for somebody of Muguruza’s ability to be in. At the 2021 WTA Finals, she scored four wins over top-10 players but since then hasn’t beaten anybody ranked higher than No.31 in the world. 

Eager to get back to the top of the sport, she has decided to change her outlook on how she approaches the Tour. Muguruza, who is coached by Conchita Martinez, now says her main priority is enjoying her tennis. If this is achieved, she is confident the results will follow in due course. 

“I feel that this year it’s more about keeping it calm and more simple,” she said. “Last year I put myself under a lot of pressure, telling myself to keep going to stay at the top all the time. That definitely didn’t help me, and it was a bit of a struggle.
“This year, yes ranking is important – I’ve been at every possible ranking – but that is not my priority anymore. Now it’s about enjoying my time on court and taking the trophies back home, then we’ll see what the ranking is.”

Muguruza’s next test will be at the Abu Dhabi Open, which will get underway on Monday. She has been drawn to play Karolina Pliskova in the first round who recently reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Then if she wins, she faces Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. 

“I played some good tennis [in Australia]. A bit disappointed about the quarter-final but overall my level is there. Of course, there are some things to improve to become more solid but overall the situation is quite good,” Pliskova said ahead of the first round clash. 

12 months ago Muguruza reached the third round in Abu Dhabi before losing to Maria Sakkari. 

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Injured Bianca Andreescu retires From Semi-Final match In Hua Hin

The Canadian was looking to book a spot in her first WTA final of the year but was forced to retire after injuring her right shoulder.

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Lesia Tsurenko booked her spot in the final of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire whilst down 7-6, 4-0.

 

The first set was extremely tight with the first four games being breaks of serve. Andreescu got the crucial break to lead 5-3 and served for the first set but the Ukrainian fought back to level the set at 5-5. Then Tsurenko was the one to break serve but she was able to close out the first set.

After the opener, the semi-final clash went completely one-sided with Tsurenko taking over by winning four games off the trot before Andreescu decided to call it quits. The Canadian had a medical timeout during a second set changeover.

Tsurenko gave full credit to her opponent and despite the retirement says it was a very difficult match.

“Bianca is such an amazing player she said. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today”. She said.

Tsurenko is looking to win her fifth WTA title and will be playing in her first final since 2019 in Hua Hin. She faces the China’s Lin Zhu who earlier in the day beat the number seven seed Xinyu Wang 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and 38 minutes to book her spot in the final.

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