Azarenka reflects on emotional Australian Open win
Victoria Azarenka admits the successful defence of her Australian Open crown was “way more emotional” than her grand slam breakthrough 12 months ago.
The Belarusian claimed her first major title in Melbourne in 2012 but she believes the roller-coaster of emotions she has been on in the past fortnight - and, in particular, the past few days – means her latest achievement will always be special.
Azarenka beat Li Na in the final yesterday, two days after edging out Sloane Stephens in a controversial semi after which she was heavily criticised.
The 23-year-old was accused of taking a medical time-out against Stephens to simply calm her nerves after squandering five match points deep in the second set.
She later explained she had required treatment for a rib injury which left her struggling to breathe.
Despite her lengthy protestations of innocence, there were a still a smattering of boos when she made her way on to Rod Laver Arena for the final with the majority of fans clearly rooting for her Chinese opponent.
Although she lost the first set, Azarenka managed to come through to win 4-6 6-4 6-3, after which she broke down in tears.
Asked to compare her win with last January, she said: “It’s a completely different mix of feelings. This one is way more emotional. It’s going to be extra special for sure.
“I never compare my wins or losses in any tournaments, it’s just a matter of the feeling you get, things you’ve been through, because you’re the only one who knows what you’ve been going through these two weeks.
“So it’s definitely an emotional one and it’s going to be special.”
On the Stephens incident, she added: “What happened with Sloane was a big deal.
“It came out as a big deal. But I take it as a great learning experience and just try to live the moment and take the best things out of what happened and move forward.
“Two weeks is (a long time) to keep your cool because in one way it seems so short and in another so long.”
Azarenka was on her best behaviour in the final, and she hopes she may have won some fans over.
“I don’t know, I hope so,” she said. “That’s out of my hands really - I just try to be the best tennis player there is. I cannot go back in time and I can’t go forward in time. I can just take control of what I can. I’ve done that and I’m really proud of that.”
Li, who twice suffered nasty falls during the final, attempted to look on the bright side despite her second Melbourne final defeat.
The last time she lost here, to Kim Clijsters in 2011, she went on to win her first major at the French Open a few months later and she is hoping history repeats itself.
She said: “I think Maria did the same thing (last year). She lost the final here and she won the French.
“Also Ana Ivanovic did it (in 2008), so I hope I can do the same this year as well.”