‘I play with passion’

‘I play with passion’

DUBAI - After suffering early exits in the Dubai and Doha tournaments last year, Victoria Azarenka was on the verge of quitting tennis altogether.



By Adur Pradeep

Published: Tue 21 Feb 2012, 1:38 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 4:07 PM

But an inspirational talk from her grandmother and support from the family helped her make a remarkable turnaround as she went on to win three titles.

She finished the year as the world number three after winning 55 of 72 matches.

Now she is the world number one after winning the Grand Slam title at Australian Open.

The Belarussian who lost to Daniel Hantuchova in the first round last year in Doha, returned to Dubai on Monday with the Qatar Open title after demolishing US Open champion Sam Stosur in straight sets on Sunday night.

Last year, the 22-year old lost to Flavia Pennetta in the second round in Dubai.

Azarenka is also enjoying an unbeaten run of 17 matches and would be keen to add the Dubai title this time.

However Azarenka is not considering her amazing run as comparable to men’s world no 1 Novak Djokovic, who went 41 matches unbeaten last year.

“I am honoured to have the comparison because he is a great champion, but I have a lot of work to do to catch up with him,” the Australian Open champion told reporters during a round table conference at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on Monday.

Asked about her victory and the status of her ankle injury, which she suffered during the Doha semi-final against Aginezska Radwanska on Saturday, she said: “I am just trying to enjoy the moment a little bit and relax. I didn’t practice today. I am just relaxing and giving my foot a rest and hopefully it will heal.”

While talking about her turnaround last year, she said: “It is hard to say. It is not some miracle that had happened. Behind that there is a lot of hard work and I have to give credit to all the experiences I had last year. There were some unfortunate loses and some actually good loses from them I learnt from last year. So a lot of hard work coupled with the support of my team helped me reach here.”

She is not treating the world number one ranking as a burden though. “I think the players have more motivation but I take it as a positive thing. I am the biggest fan of competition. I never want to lose. I do my best every day, not worrying too much about the end result.

“I think I am more of a complete player. I have a clear mind. I know what I am doing. I will always play with my heart and with my passion. I am also a more mature player. I have a better mind, a clearer mind. I know what I am doing,,” she added.

Azarenka is also keen to play in the Olympics this year.

“Like all players, my focus will be on Olympic Games this year because it happens once in four years. It is an event every athlete in the world wants to participate. Then the focus will be on the remaining Grand Slams.”

While asked whether she had a change in approach over the years, she joked: “I am also a year older. I need to behave more like a lady and not as a crazy kid. I am always going to be an emotional person.”

She recollected some of the funny criticisms she had received from her own family: “My mom says you look like an idiot some times and she was right.”

Azarenka also wants to improve her record against the Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who had defeated Azarenka four times in a row, with the last one being the final of WTA championships in Istanbul last November. The Czech left-hander has been forced to withdraw form the Dubai event because of high fever.

“I lost to Kvitova last year and I really want revenge,” she joked.

“I think the women’s tennis is at a higher level now with a lot of competition. It is good for the sports and the players to have that competitiveness. It is interesting for me,” she added.

pradeep@khaleejtimes.com


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