With Gritted Teeth, Victoria Azarenka Advances To Second Round
NEW YORK -- Victoria Azarenka is fighting for her career, point by point.
That reality was evident in the way she talked to herself on Tuesday, the way she stared down the ball when it came at her. She is the 16th seed at the US Open, a tournament where she has twice made it all the way to the final, and yet she struggled to reach the second round against Misaki Doi, finally winning 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1.
"Sometimes what it is, it's challenging to get the rhythm because your physical ability raises up and your tennis has to catch up," Azarenka said. "So during the tournament it's sometimes a battle to do that."
The Belarussian lost a tight tiebreak in the first set, and by the start of the second set, the blue kinesio tape on her knee started to peel away. Her patience appeared to follow suit.
"If you miss a f---ing volley it's OK," Azarenka said, apparently to herself as a kind of encouragement.
She explained it later.
"Well, I'm my own toughest opponent, so I talk to myself," Azarenka said. "I curse at myself. I pump myself up. Whatever it takes to do, I don't really give a damn how it looks really because when I'm in the moment I need to be me and I need to do me. Whatever helps me to be out there and fight and give my best on every single point, that's what I'm going to do."
And that fight was apparent, from the pep talk to the steely look in her eyes as she waited at the baseline. Azarenka finally broke Doi to go up 2-0 in the third set, gritting her teeth as she waited for the serve on break point.
Azarenka isn't used to struggling. She missed a chunk of the spring with a foot injury and later sustained a knee injury. Asked if she was 100 percent now at the US Open, Azarenka didn't shrink.
"I'm so tired of answering this question," Azarenka said. "What is 100 percent physically?" She hasn't been out of the Top 20 since 2008, but that could be in jeopardy. She has won four WTA Tour matches since June in five tournaments, counting the win Tuesday at the Open. Azarenka will face unseeded American Christina McHale in the second round.
"I wish I could be a psychic and tell you what's going to happen in the future," Azarenka said. "I think I put the best chances on my side that way. You know, I'm going to take every day and try to make the best out of every day. I know results [are] going to come. It's just a matter of time. I believe in myself, so I just got to keep working hard."