January 27, 2013 by Parveer Mann
If you’ve ever attended a tennis tournament, you know that a tennis crowd is highly respectful. They are quiet during points and will cheer on a winner or good effort by both players. During the Australian Open women’s final, eventual champion Victoria Azarenka faced the ultimate crowd reaction: Indifference.
This muted to mostly negative reaction may have been due to the actions and prevailing opinions that surround Azarenka. In her semi-final match against Sloane Stephens, she took a prolonged medical timeout after missing several match point opportunities during the previous game. Commentators and fans were quick to notice that she had received no medical attention for an injury but took the time as a personal mental break. When she returned to take the court, she convincingly took the next game and match and voiced in the post-match interview that she was lucky to not have ‘choked’.
The incident almost took a life of its own before the final with many pundits accusing Victoria Azarenka of showing poor sportsmanship and manipulating the rules to her favour. The fans at Rod Laver Arena were clear in their opinion as they affectionately cheered for Li Na and were mostly silent towards Azarenka. But however you feel about the medical timeout rules, the actions she took were within the rules and will only ultimately add to the controversy that has seemingly always surrounded her.
Queen of ‘Shriek’
For years, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova have been the two players who have been at the center of the noise and ‘shrieks’ debate on the WTA tour. Both players have been known to be very vocal when hitting shots during a match to the point that it has annoyed other players and fans. At the moment, this issue has not formally been addressed by the WTA.
I think it is important to note that despite her perceived shortcomings, Victoria Azarenka has become a force in the women’s game. She has successfully defended her title in Melbourne and the #1 ranking in spite of the adversity she faced this past weekend. There may not be another player today who can challenge Serena Williams to the extent she can and as fans we should be grateful for that rivalry this year.
I’m sure she will be more motivated to prove herself after this tournament and symbolically take on the role of her versus the world. To the readers, how have you used adversity to motivate yourself and what can we learn when facing those challenges?