On 31 July, a former world No. 1, two-time winner of the Australian Open and Olympic champion Victoria Azarenka celebrates her 30th anniversary.
A month earlier, she admitted her desire to bring the title of the best tennis player in the world back and big plans for the future. Vika is convinced that it is too early to write an autobiography.
But sometimes one needs to take a moment to reflect on the past to move forward. This is exactly what SPORT.TUT.BY did with the help of Azarenka herself and her team members. Enjoy!
2012. A banner year
After winning the Australian Open on 30 January 2012, Victoria Azarenka headed the world rankings. It was something unprecedented in the world of Belarusian tennis.
There are many elements of success, and one of them was the French chiropractor Jean-Pierre Brewer joining the team. He helped Azarenka transform from a top-10 player into a leader of the women’s tour.
As a World No. 1, Azarenka spent 51 weeks and won 8 tournaments (Sydney, AO, Doha, Indian Wells, Beijing, Linz) and Olympic medals: the bronze medal in singles and the gold medal in the mixed doubles with Maxim Mirny.
2013. Strained relations with journalists
In April 2013, shortly after losing her leading position in the world ranking, Victoria gave her first big press conference in Minsk.
She expressed her dissatisfaction with the topics Belarusian reporters chose to cover news about her, among them were her salary or the fact that she doesn’t play for the national team.
“You write that I don’t want to play for the country and play only for money. But the reality is that I represent Belarus at every tournament,” the irritated tennis player said back then.
“Last year I won two Olympic medals! It is ugly and disrespectful to say that I am not patriotic. Can you imagine how many people around the world know about Belarus because I play tennis?”
2014. Love with a rapper
For about a year, Azarenka dated a popular American rapper Redfoo, the author of the hit song Party Rock Anthem with 1.6 billion views on YouTube. The rapper cried when confessing his love to Vika at the Australian version of the X-Factor.
Redfoo accompanied her in tournaments, played tennis with Serena Williams and attracted her to the shooting of the Let’s Get Ridiculous video, where Vika got the role of a stewardess.
“I am in love, and I don’t care how people feel about my choice. I meet someone special, I would say that he is number one. He is a unique guy, and we belong to two different worlds.
I can guarantee that he is a really special person, he is the love of my life. He has the image of a party-goer, but he is also very smart and works hard. I call him a four-eyed party-goer.”
2015. Good buy, old team
Azarenka’s 2014 season was blighted by a foot injury which forced her to miss five months of the season and call an early end to her season in September.
While fighting severe pain in her ankle, she slid from 2nd position in the ranking to 25th and ended the year ranked world No. 32, her lowest finish since 2006.
In early 2015, Vika dropped out of the Australian Open, and this is when it was decided to change a coach. Under Sam Sumyk’s leadership, Vika played for five years and won 14 titles.
Azarenka’s new team included coach Wim Fissette, physiotherapist Jean-Pierre Brewer, and “Serena Williams’s secret weapon” — her former sparring partner Sascha Bajin.
In 2015, for the first time in four years, she played for the national team in Federal Cup. In February, she helped her team to rise from the bottom and get into the playoffs of the II World Group.
2016. Pregnancy & one of the best seasons
With the new team at the beginning of 2016, Azarenka won tree titles and suffered only one defeat, advancing confidently on the path to the world No. 1 title.
The national team of Belarus and Vika beat Russia in Moscow, which allowed the team to break into the World Cup of the Federation Cup for the first time in history.
“I started playing smarter tennis, and due to my physical condition, I improved the quality of the game,” Vika explained.
“The biggest difference between the way I played in 2012 and my current tennis is not the aspects of the game but my relation to what I’m doing on the court and beyond it.”
As it turned out, playing for the country, Vika was already pregnant and, alas, missed the 2016 Olympic Games. “No, it wasn’t an interrupted flight,” she said in an interview on Mother’s Day.
“Pregnancy was a surprise and at the same time joy, because I will soon have a baby. Besides, it gave me a chance to get some rest from tennis, in which I have been for so many years.”
2017. Childbirth and trials
On 20 December 2016, Azarenka gave birth to a baby boy named Leo Alexander. She recovered pretty quick and returned to competitive tennis in June 2017.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and subsequently, Victoria split from Leo’s father Billy McKeague and a custody battle with arguments and accusations ensued.
In 2018, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the Los Angeles High Court which ruled in favor of Azarenka. It is not known whether the parties have come to an agreement or are still in court.
2018–19. Back in play
Azarenka’s return to the game took place in March 2018. She worked with her former junior coach Vyacheslav Konikov, a couple of others and finally Wim Fissette.
Her performance at the beginning of the 2019 season was a big blow. She cried after losing the first round of the Australian Open and admitted that she is not in the best shape to compete.
Wim Fissette adjusted the practice and soon Vika had got her first victory over one of the top-10 players and is not going to stop at it. Now, her main goal is to win her world No. 1 title back.
“I’m not trying to return to the former level,” Vika stresses. “That would be the biggest mistake. I try to break new ground. I’m not 22 years old, I now have a different understanding of the world.”
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