Saturday, March 8, 2014
What we learned from Azarenka's loss
By Kamakshi Tandon
Lauren Davis' 6-0, 7-6 (2) win over No. 4 Victoria Azarenka in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif., is a result that requires some explanation. Here are five things that helped decide the outcome.
1. Azarenka wasn't ready
The Belarussian hurt her foot three days before the Australian Open and had to wear a walking boot for three weeks after the event. She had been practicing again for less than a week before Indian Wells.
The injury flared up again early in the first set when she ran for a ball and twisted her foot, Azarenka said.
"Obviously, it was maybe a little bit too early," she said. "But I gave it a fight, you know. She played well, but I just felt I was trying to battle my own issue."
After falling behind quickly, Azarenka grew increasingly frustrated, smashing her racket and berating herself during the tiebreak.
2. Azarenka wasn't ready to retire
Although her coach, Sam Sumyk, advised her to retire, Azarenka played on. Once known for frequently calling it quits in matches, she has recently insisted on playing matches to their conclusion.
At the WTA Championships in Istanbul, she said part of the reason was the criticism she had received for retiring. After Friday's loss, she said she wants to teach herself to tough things out. "I want to learn how to go through the tough thing, how to try the best in the toughest situation," Azarenka emphasized. "You've got to learn to win in bad situations."
3. Azarenka's serve wasn't working
It's not clear whether the injury affected Azarenka on serve, but her poor serving certainly affected the result. Azarenka had 12 double faults, got in only 52 percent of her first serves and won 22 percent of her second serve points.
4. Davis was ready
Davis is small but can pack a decent punch. With a nearly full stadium cheering her on, the 20-year-old American went after her shots from the very first game and quickly won the first set. And even though she struggled when the match tightened in the second, 66th-ranked Davis kept fighting and won the tiebreak convincingly for her first top-10 win.
"I focused all day. I had to believe in myself, and I did," Davis said in her courtside interview.
5. Davis is a tough opponent for an injured player
With her fast legs and assertive play, Davis was able to play extended points and keep the ball deep, exposing Azarenka's own hampered movement.
Q&A with Lauren Davis
Q. Just talk a little bit about how you feel your year is going so far?
A. The year is going great so far. I had a really good start to the year, had a great offseason -- one of the best I've ever done.
Q. Third round of the Australian Open. Does that feel like a big step forward?
A. Yeah, it does. That really boosted my confidence. It was my first time in the third round of a Grand Slam, so really happy with that.
Q. Do you see [this] as an important season to take the next step forward?
A. Yeah, I don't have any [Grand Slam] points to defend ... nor do I have that many points to defend otherwise, so just looking at it as a great opportunity.
Q. Just talk a little bit about what you see as the strengths of your game.
A. I move really, really well. I know I'm small, but I'm very, very strong, so I generate a lot of power and I have really good racket head speed. I'm a good baseliner, and I can kind of stay in there, I feel, longer than my opponents.
Q. Do you feel there are any limitations because of your size?
A. No, I don't feel there are any limitations at all. Because, I mean, girls who are 6 feet don't have things that I have. And me being 5-foot-2, I don't have some assets that they do have, but I think they equal each other out.