Doha: World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka’s tennis-playing stock has never been higher, but further repairs to her image may be appropriate during her title defence at the Qatar Open, which has nine of the world’s top 10, starting on Monday in Doha.
By winning her second Grand Slam title in Melbourne last month, Azarenka displayed new resilience and clung on to the world No. 1 ranking ahead of Serena Williams.
It evidenced a capacity for focus in the 23-year-old, which is significantly improved since her younger days when spectacular emotional explosions happened all too often.
Azarenka’s equanimity was admirable considering the negative energy which was zapping towards her both on and off court after an ill-timed time out she took during her semi-final with Sloane Stephens.
Rather than attempting to retrieve the situation with defensive comments, coach Sam Suryk persuaded Azarenka to do all she could “to let her racquet talk” in the final against Li Na.
That will probably be Azarenka’s attitude in Doha too during her first appearance since the fuss.
“You have to go through rough patches to achieve things in life,” she said. “I can only learn from this and move forward and try to improve as a player and as a person. I am ready to rock.”
There are, however, memories to be set aside in Doha too. Last year Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No. 4 from Poland, claimed she had “lost a lot of respect” for Azarenka after losing to the Belarussian in the Qatar Open semi-final.
This was a reference to Azarenka’s allegedly distracting conduct between rallies, with hobbling and wincing, whilst moving well enough during rallies to complete a solid straight sets win.