Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Motherhood has changed Azarenka's perspective on life

But the former world number one is not ready to say goodbye to tennis yet

By Joy Chakravarty

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Victoria Azarenka plays a backhand return during her match in Dubai on Monday. — Photo by Shihab
Victoria Azarenka plays a backhand return during her match in Dubai on Monday. — Photo by Shihab

Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 9:56 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 9:57 PM

Victoria Azarenka has always lived life and played tennis on her own terms, and she is pretty darn sure she does not need anyone’s help in deciding when to retire.

At the age of 33, the former world No1 Belarusian is a rarity in women’s tennis. As players from her generation hang up their racquets – India’s Sania Mirza being the latest one to do so – Azarenka is sure there is plenty of tennis left in her.

The world No14 showed she has plenty of tennis left in her at the Australian Open earlier this year, when she reached the semifinals of the first grand slam championship of the season, and she proved it again last night with a battling 6-3, 7-5 win against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“Happy to win, for sure. I felt that I had a bit too many ups and downs today,” said Azarenka, when asked if she felt she carried the momentum from the Australian Open here.

“Honestly, it’s kind of hard to tell. I feel like I’m playing well. I felt like I played really well in Doha. I didn’t convert the match (Round of 16 loss to Belinda Bencic), but I played against a great opponent who has a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum.

“Even though there’s a lot of positives to take out of that, the competitive side of me is kind of frustrated. It was important to go through today with those momentum shifts a little bit and find the way. The season is long. I’m hoping to play a little bit more this year, a bit more consistency through the tournaments, and really see how I can build throughout the season. I’m excited for that.”

The double Australian Open champion, who started playing on the WTA Tour in 2005, now holds the record of winning the most number of WTA 1000 matches in the history of the championships. Monday’s win was her 183rd.

And she made it clear she wasn’t thinking of retiring anytime soon.

“I feel like when there are players who are older, like me, I see a lot of people asking about retirement. And once they retire, it’s like, ‘we miss them’,” said Azarenka, winner of 10 WTA 1000 titles.

“Let’s not waste this time talking about retirement before someone retires. People will let you guys know when it’s time. But I see that coming up all the time, those comments about age... you know, just mind your business.

“When someone’s ready, they are going to announce it one way or the other, and there’s going to be a parade for some, and maybe not for some others. Just leave it up to people. That’s my opinion.”

Azarenka, mother of seven-year-old Leo, said she still feels excited before her matches.

“I still feel nervous, I still feel excited,” she added.

“But there are definitely things that have changed. There’s a different perspective. I have my son now. I have a different perspective than when I was 20 years old. I hope I have matured in my life. There’s going to be different emotions.

“In terms of nerves and excitement to go on the court, when I don’t feel nervous or excited, I think that’s the time when I wouldn’t want to play.”

Azarenka, whose best Dubai performance came in 2010 when she lost to the legendary Venus Williams in the final, plays her second-round match against American Amanda Anisimova on Court 1 on Tuesday.

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