Australian Open

Teary Azarenka admits to struggling after loss in Australia

2019-01-15 16:35
Victoria Azarenka (AFP)

Melbourne - Victoria Azarenka cried, pausing for a minute, trying to reflect on the differences between her past and present experiences of the Australian Open

A back-to-back champion in 2012 and 2013, Azarenka sat in a small interview room at Melbourne Park answering questions for 10 minutes in the wake of her 6-7 (7/5), 6-4, 6-2 first round loss to No 110-ranked Laura Siegemund on Tuesday. Eventually, it drove her to tears. 

Even when she was winning and ranked No 1 there were struggles, she said. But it was a different kind of struggle - a word she used a dozen times. 

A tournament official gave the 29-year-old Belarussian the option of stopping the news conference, and a member of her management team attempted to shut it down. But Azarenka, excusing herself first, and taking deep breaths, insisted on answering a question. 

"I've been through a lot of things in my life," she said, crying again.

"Sometimes I wonder why I go through them. But I think they're going to make me stronger. 

"I want to believe that and I'm going to work hard for it. Sometimes I just need a little time and patience, and a little support." 

Her son, Leo, was born in December 2016 in a period in which Wimbledon in 2017 was the only Grand Slam tournament Azarenka entered in two years between the French Opens in 2016 and last year. 

She had to skip some tournaments while working out a custody dispute with the father of her son. And she has spoken about the challenges of being a traveling, working mom. 

She's dealing with that, and with trying to find a way to convert the form she believes she has found in practice into matches. Her first-round loss at the last French Open was followed by a second-round exit at Wimbledon and a third-round appearance at the US Open, moving her ranking back into the 50s. The trajectory didn't keep going up. 

"It was very obvious that my game was not there today," she said.

"I've been doing a lot of great things in warm-ups and stuff. In matches I think I'm underestimating for not really playing for almost three years on a high level - it's not easy to continue just out of nowhere to start playing well." 

Then there was another question about comparing her level pre-2016 with where she's at now. 

"Every time you look back you always see the good things and the results. You don't see the struggle, and the days that you had a bad match but you managed to win," she said. "It's hard to compare that with what's happening right now because the obvious indicator is the result, and the result is not there. So the assumption is the level is not there, but that's not necessarily the case." 

It feels like such a long time ago to her that she can barely remember what life was like at the top, although she concedes it wasn't always great. 

There were people who didn't like the sound of her grunting, or her taste in music, and she was heavily criticized for an incident in her Australian Open semi-final win over Sloane Stephens in 2013. 

Azarenka wasted five match points on serve before being broken in that game, then took a lengthy medical timeout right before Stephens had to serve to stay in the match. She was accused of taking a strategic break after admitting "I almost did the choke of the year!" 

The controversy was still the main topic of headlines when she beat Li Na in the final. 

"Not many people know how difficult 2013 was for me to go out there and play that final," Azarenka said of her last major title here.

"It was a nightmare that turned from harmless incident to just headlines, headlines and headlines. That was a difficult part. But results were good, so everybody thinks it was great. 

"It was amazing to win those two titles. But you always struggle, and right now it's just a harder struggle for me." 

Azarenka said she'd go away and work hard on her game, hoping that eventually she'll relive some of the success of her early career. 

"It's not easy to sit here right now and be positive," she said, "but I don't have another choice."

Collated results from Day 2 of the Australian Open on Tuesday:

Men

Round 1

Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Mitchell Krueger (USA) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) bt Martin Klizan (SVK) 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)

Taro Daniel (JPN) bt Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 5-7, 4-2 retired

Denis Shapovalov (CAN x25) bt Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3)

David Goffin (BEL x21) bt Christian Garin (CHI) 6-0, 6-2, 6-2

Marius Copil (ROU) bt Marcel Granollers (ESP) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

Ryan Harrison (USA) bt Jiri Vesely (CZE) 6-0, 7-5, 6-3

Daniil Medvedev (RUS x15) bt Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-1, 6-2, 6-1

Fabio Fognini (ITA x12) bt Jaume Munar (ESP) 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (9/7), 3-1 retired

Leonardo Mayer (ARG) bt Nicolas Jarry (CHI) 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-3

Ilya Ivashka (BLR) bt Malek Jaziri (TUN) 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1, 4-0 retired

Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP x23) bt Luca Vanni (ITA) 6-7 (5/7), 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4

Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER x32) bt Li Zhe (CHN) 6-2, 6-2, 6-4

Joao Sousa (POR) bt Guido Pella (ARG) 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-2

Ivo Karlovic (CRO) bt Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5)

Kei Nishikori (JPN x8) bt Kamil Majchrzak (POL) 3-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-0, 6-2, 3-0 retired

Alexander Zverev (GER x4) bt Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4

Jeremy Chardy (FRA) bt Ugo Humbert (FRA) 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (10/6)

Alex Bolt (AUS) bt Jack Sock (USA) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

Gilles Simon (FRA x29) bt Bjorn Fratangelo (USA) 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-2

Chung Hyeon (KOR x24) bt Bradley Klahn (USA) 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) bt Sam Querrey (USA) 5-7, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-1

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) bt Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 3-6, 3-1 retired

Milos Raonic (CAN x16) bt Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4

Borna Coric (CRO x11) bt Steve Darcis (BEL) 6-1, 6-4, 6-4

Marton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Albert Ramos (ESP) 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3

Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) bt Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (7/5)

Filip Krajinovic (SRB) bt Marco Cecchinato (ITA x17) 4-6, 0-6, 6-1, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4

Lucas Pouille (FRA x28) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 6-1, 7-5, 6-4

Maximilian Marterer (GER) bt Gleb Sakharov (FRA) 6-3, 6-1, 6-3

Alexei Popyrin (AUS) bt Mischa Zverev (GER) 7-5, 7-6 (9/7), 6-4

Dominic Thiem (AUT x7) bt Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 1-6, 6-3

Women

Round 1

Sofia Kenin (USA) bt Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-3, 3-6, 7-5

Alize Cornet (FRA) bt Lara Arruabarrena (ESP) 6-2, 6-2

Venus Williams (USA) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU x25) 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-2

Carla Suarez (ESP x23) bt Clara Burel (FRA) 7-5, 6-2

Dayana Yastremska (UKR) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS) 7-5, 6-2

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) bt Peng Shuai (CHN) 6-2, 6-1

Serena Williams (USA x16) bt Tatjana Maria (GER) 6-0, 6-2

Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) bt Darya Kasatkina (RUS x10) 6-3, 6-0

Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS) bt Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 6-7 (2/7), 6-2, 6-4

Johanna Konta (GBR) bt Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 7-6 (10/7)

Garbine Muguruza (ESP x18) bt Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-2, 6-3

Camila Giorgi (ITA x27) bt Dalila Jakupovic (SLO) 6-3, 6-0

Iga Swiatek (POL) bt Ana Bogdan (ROU) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4

Madison Brengle (USA) bt Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-4, 6-0

Karolina Pliskova (CZE x7) bt Karolina Muchova (CZE) 6-3, 6-2

Tamara Zidansek (SLO) bt Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 7-5, 6-3

Laura Siegemund (GER) bt Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-2

Hsieh Su-wei (TPE x28) bt Stefanie Vogele (SUI) 6-2, 6-1

Wang Qiang (CHN x21) bt Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-4, 6-3

Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) bt Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 3-6, 7-5, 6-1

Bianca Andreescu (CAN) bt Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 7-6 (7/1), 6-7 (0/7), 6-3

Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x13) bt Mona Barthel (GER) 6-3, 6-1

Elise Mertens (BEL x12) bt Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-2, 7-5

Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) bt Lin Zhu (CHN) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2

Anastasia Potapova (RUS) bt Pauline Parmentier (FRA) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)

Madison Keys (USA x17) bt Destanee Aiava (AUS) 6-2, 6-2

Zhang Shuai (CHN) bt Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x26) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2

Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) bt Anna Blinkova (RUS) 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-2

Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) bt Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2

Elina Svitolina (UKR x6) bt Viktorija Golubic (SUI) 6-1, 6-2

Simona Halep (ROU x1) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST) 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 6-2

Naomi Osaka (JPN x4) bt Magda Linette (POL) 6-4, 6-2

 

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