Defending champion Victoria Azarenka trudged off court for a nine minute long medical time out after squandering five match points in her Australian against teenage American Sloane Stephens and walked into massive controversy, admitting she needed time to ‘calm down’.
With the match staged in temperatures nudging towards the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark, Azarenka eventually won 6-1, 6-4, rounding off her passage to the final and a meeting with former French Open champion Li Na in just one more match.
Azarenka gave varied excuses during her various television interviews, filmed immediately after the match. With Australian host broadcaster Channel 7 she admitted: “It was nearly the choke of the year. Nerves got to me for sure.”
The general assumption that the more experienced of the two players on court was abusing the medical time out really to employ some gamesmanship, appeared to be underlined when Azarenka said to Eurosport TV: “I’m so glad I took that timeout, I really needed it.”
Finally when asked by ESPN why she took the two consecutive timeouts, allowed by Australian umpire Kerrilyn Cramer, the world no.1 from Belarus began to elaborate and said: “I had to take a little bit of time to calm down.
“I couldn’t breathe, I had chest pains. It was like I was having a heart attack or something. I did it to make sure I was OK because I really could not breathe.”
When she arrived in her routine media press conference, more than an hour later, and with agent Meilun Tu and PR advisor Benito Perez Barbadillo sitting close by, Azarenka changed her story and said it was her back that caused her to take the timeout.
“That’s the reason I couldn’t breathe – my back was locked,” she said. “I had to unlock my rib, which was causing my back problem. The trainer said, ‘We have to go off court to treat the problem’. I didn’t really want to take off my dress on the court.”
Of her comments to ESPN, she said she had misunderstood the question. “I completely thought of a different thing, “ she maintained. “Why I couldn’t close out of the match, that I had few difficulties. So I understand the whole situation right now, but it just really simple misunderstanding of a question.” Then she added: “I guess it was my back.”
Azarenka also admitted she should have taken the timeout earlier than when she did but Stephens refused to be drawn into any row. “When you take a medical break or timeout, obviously it’s for a reason,” said the teenager who is now predicted to rise inside the world’s top 20. “Like if it was one of my friends, I would say, ‘Oh, my God, that sounds like a PP, which is a personal problem. Other than that, it’s just unfortunate.”
©Daily Tennis News Wire