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Yesterday 03:16 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Don’t Call It A Comeback — Azarenka Returns
Don't Call It A Comeback - Azarenka Returns - Courtside Watch
by Miguel Farfan - June 22, 2017

It’s an exciting time to be a WTA fan as former world number one and two time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, has begun her anticipated return to competitive tennis this week on the grass courts of the Mallorca Open. The Belarusian Azarenka has been absent from the game for over a year as she was on maternity leave. It was last July when she announced that she was pregnant and later in December gave birth to her son, Leo. Her pregnancy news shocked the tennis world as she started the 2016 season in dominant form winning three titles, including the rare achievement of the Sunshine Double. Azarenka is looking to pick up where she left off, but she does not want her return to be referred to as a comeback. “It’s not really a comeback for me, it’s more starting a second part of my career,” Azarenka said. Her return to the tour, and second part of her career is welcomed and much needed by the WTA at a time where the top players have been lacking consistency and the tour is without its biggest star, Serena Williams, who is also on maternity leave.

How Was Her Return?

In her pre-tournament press conference, Azarenka said, “I really feel I haven’t reached my potential yet and I think I can be better,” which can be problematic for the rest of the field, but great for tennis. Azarenka has previously proven worthy of the most prestigious trophies the game has to offer but recreating that success will most definitely require improvement of her part. The last time Azarenka played a professional match was during last year’s Roland Garros, and the rust was evident in her first round Mallorca win over Riza Ozaki of Japan. There was no time to ease herself into the competition as Azarenka and Ozaki were forced to complete the match over two days after it was suspended due to darkness. Azarenka’s trademark fighting spirit was in full display as she saved three match points before posting her first win as a mother with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7) scoreline.

While at times Azarenka showed moments of brilliance, it was her inability to control her normally accurate groundstrokes that kept Ozaki competitive throughout the match. She finished the match with 30 winners and 41 unforced errors. In addition to her erratic play off the ground, it was also the serve that was letting her down. Azarenka was only able to win 58% of her first serves and was broken six times throughout the match. Her second round encounter with the 7th seed Ana Konjuh proved to be too much for Azarenka as her groundstrokes kept missing the lines, and her serve was nowhere to be found. Konjuh was able to defeat Azarenka posting a dominant 6-1, 6-3 win. While Azarenka’s return was cut short at the Mallorca Open, she will now have more time to prepare for Wimbledon by cleaning up her ground game and working on her serve.

What Was Different?

In her first tournament back, Azarenka’s world class tennis was all too familiar, but there were also some noteworthy differences on display. Tennis fans have been accustomed to seeing Azarenka swinging her Wilson racket on the court, but this time she was playing with a blacked out racket frame. This is normal behavior in the world of professional tennis when a player is making the switch from one racket brand to another. From the shape and appearance of the new frame, it is likely that Azarenka is playing with a blacked out Yonex racket, and will likely soon be confirmed after a contract deal has been established. It was not only the racket that was different; her service motion was visibly different as well. Azarenka’s biggest room for improvement has always been her serve; for a woman who is six feet tall, Azarenka has an underwhelming serve. It appears that her new coach Michael Joyce, former coach of Maria Sharapova, is looking to make her serve more rhythmic and thus eliminate her previously stiff motion. Judging by her first round serving stats, Azarenka will most definitely have to find the rhythm on her new service motion before facing the game’s elite.

What To Expect

It’s always difficult to predict what the future has in store, but if her feisty first round win is anything to go by, Azarenka has a pretty bright future ahead of her. While her future is easy to predict, it’s the present that will test her limits as a new mother and professional athlete. Azarenka will face challenges that most of her peers will be without, but as she has previously demonstrated, she tends to rise to the challenge. The last time we saw a top player returning to the game as a new mom was in 2009 when Kim Clijsters powered her way to the US Open title. It will be moments like Clijsters 2009 US Open win that will fuel Azarenka’s determination and competitive spirit. While most people predict a rapid return to the top of the game, there is reason to think Azarenka might need more time to navigate her life as a professional tennis player and a new mom. It will take a handful of tournaments before we see the same controlled aggression and clean ball striking that took her to the top of the game. In the meantime, expect Azarenka to provide us with quality, entertaining matches as she continues to navigate the second part of her career.
Jun 22nd, 2017 03:05 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka Returns to the Court, Accompanied by a Mother’s Patience

JUNE 20, 2017

CALVIÀ, Spain — Victoria Azarenka is back in tennis ahead of schedule.

Initially planning to come back for the North American summer hardcourt season in late July, Azarenka returned from maternity leave on Tuesday at the Mallorca Open, a grass-court event that serves as a warm-up for Wimbledon. It had been six months and one day since she gave birth to her first child, Leo.

“My team started talking to me when I started practicing and progressing quite rapidly,” Azarenka said. “They said, ‘Hey, what do you think of playing Wimbledon, and earlier?’ And I said: ‘Eh, I’m not sure, I don’t know. We had a plan.’ I said: ‘Do you think we can accomplish what we are working on in this period of time? If not, I’m not going on the court.’”

Azarenka slept on it for two weeks, and ultimately she decided that the best way for her to further develop her game was to resume competing on tour. She started practicing on artificial grass courts instead of hardcourts at her training base in Minsk, Belarus, her hometown.

“I started feeling like I wanted to test myself in this competition environment, because there’s no better way to improve than a match,” she said. “I’m still going to keep working, but I have to play.”

In her first match here, Azarenka, 27, raced to a 4-0 lead and took the first set, 6-3, against 74th-ranked Risa Ozaki of Japan. But Ozaki played steady, opportunistic tennis that often capitalized on Azarenka’s uncharacteristically passive play, allowing Ozaki to take charge of the match. She won the second set, 6-4, and led the third, 5-4, when the match was suspended because of fading light. Ozaki, 23, will serve for the match when it resumes Wednesday afternoon.

Azarenka has no official ranking after having been off the tour for nearly 13 months, but she has entered Wimbledon with a protected ranking of No. 6.

She has come back strong from a long layoff before. After missing the end of 2015 because of injuries, Azarenka was the tour’s best player early in the 2016 season, winning three titles.

“I feel like my coming back from big injury and being able to recreate that in a couple months was a very good effort, and I don’t see why I can’t do that again,” she said.

Pregnancy and tennis have overlapped prominently this season on the WTA Tour, with Serena Williams also currently on maternity leave, having won the Australian Open in January in the early months of her pregnancy.

Azarenka was pregnant when she won the Miami Open in April 2016 but did not know it yet.

She said she now had a greater sense of wonder about the range of things women can do.

“With the amount of physical change and emotional change that you go through, I think women are so strong,” she said. “Going through that experience, now I understand how strong women are, how strong moms are. It’s really incredible. You never think about it, but women’s bodies can do so much.”

Azarenka had continued to play tennis recreationally until she was seven and a half months pregnant, finally stopping under doctor’s orders. That constant activeness, she said, kept her closer to playing shape than she had realized was possible through pregnancy. She appears leaner than she had in recent years before her pregnancy.

“I think a lot of women will probably not like me for this, but I lost a lot of weight compared to what I was before, actually,” Azarenka said. “I didn’t lose much muscle mass because I kept being active while I was pregnant. Obviously, I had to rebuild my muscle, rebuild the repetition, but over all, I was in really good shape right after.”

Endurance proved an early challenge, but with the night feedings and other strains of raising an infant, Azarenka has taken solace in her training.

“It was a lot of work, but it was fun,” she said. “When I’d go exercise, it felt kind of like a rest for me. Mentally, it was just a break. Physically, it just recharged me.”

Azarenka said being able to separate tennis from the rest of her life had become easier in motherhood.

“There’s tennis on TV, tennis on your phone, everywhere. It’s hard to switch off,” she said. “Now I’m really able to shut off when I get home, which is a good thing.”

Azarenka has found that the lens through which she sees the sport has already been changed. When she was a spectator at the French Open, Azarenka’s maternal instincts kicked in as she watched a player take out his frustrations on the children on the court.

“I’d never really observed ball kids before,” Azarenka said. “Especially when you play, you don’t see them. And they work so, so hard. And as players, me included, we don’t give them enough thanks — we don’t value them enough. I felt, like, in physical pain when I saw that a player wasn’t treating them well.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve probably done it myself toward these kids,’ and I felt so bad as a player, as a human being. I told myself I will try to never make that mistake again. I felt so bad. I wanted to apologize to every ball kid.”

Though she hopes to keep her outbursts under control, Azarenka made it clear that her expectations for her tennis career have not been tempered.

“I want to play for five, six years, and I want to make sure that I do the best job in this time,” she said. “I’m going to work towards that goal, and I’ve worked very hard physically to prolong my career.”

Victoria Azarenka Struggles in First Match Back

JUNE 21, 2017

CALVIÀ, Spain — Returning from maternity leave after a year off tour, Victoria Azarenka packed 12 months’ worth of highs and lows into her first match.

In a match that began Tuesday evening and finished Wednesday afternoon, Azarenka defeated 74th-ranked Risa Ozaki, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7), in the first round of the Mallorca Open, saving three match points on Ozaki’s serve, and recovering from a double-break deficit at 1-4 in the third set.

Azarenka started the match in dominant fashion, racing out to a 4-0 lead. But after her hot start, she seemed to lose focus, and her more passive play allowed the counterpunching Ozaki to dictate more rallies.

“I think I started the match yesterday really well, and then I kind of got myself more into trouble,” Azarenka said after her victory on Wednesday. “I felt like my intensity dropped a lot, and that let her play a little bit more.”

She added: “She’s a very good fighter, and brings so many balls back, which is always tricky in a first match after you don’t play a lot. You have to always hit that extra ball, and that was something I had to adjust and adapt to.”

Azarenka called her coach, Michael Joyce, for an on-court timeout after dropping the second set, and he encouraged her to be more assertive with her shots. Azarenka was not initially able to execute that strategy.

“Again it was too many ups and downs,” she said. “It was a lot of good shots, then a lot of easy mistakes. I guess it’s something expected after a long break, but definitely something I need to start improving.”

Azarenka’s play improved as defeat drew closer, and she won three of the last four games Tuesday before the match was halted because of darkness and dewy grass, with Ozaki leading by 5-4 in the second set. When play resumed Wednesday, Azarenka broke Ozaki’s serve to level the set, but then lost seven straight points to find herself down a triple match point on Ozaki’s serve. From there, she reeled off five straight points of her own, and then recovered from a 3-5 deficit in the third-set tiebreaker.

Azarenka, who will face seventh-seeded Ana Konjuh in her second-round match Thursday, said she hoped to stabilize her play after the shaky start to her return.

“It’s easy to feel good when everything goes your way,” Azarenka said. “I think mentally-wise, or confidence-wise, it’s better to go through these kinds of matches and find solutions in the tough situations, and build from there. I know I can play better, definitely, and I will at some point, but I need to work through these matches.”
Jun 22nd, 2017 02:33 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

2010 champ! Looking forward to see Vika on the hard courts
Jun 22nd, 2017 02:26 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

2017 Player Field Announced
June 20, 2017 05:27 PM

2017 Player Field Announced | Press Releases - News | | Bank of the West Classic

STANFORD, Calif. – The official WTA acceptance list for the Bank of the West Classic has been announced, and with four Grand Slam champions, two former World No. 1s and several of the world’s top young players this year’s event will once again feature the best in women’s tennis.

Highlighting this year’s player field will be two of the biggest names in women’s tennis who are making their return to competitive play in the United States.

Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, who has been granted a main draw wildcard, will be competing in the United States for the first time since March 2015 (Miami Open). She has won 35 career WTA singles titles and is one of just six women to complete the career Grand Slam. This will mark Sharapova’s fourth visit to the Bank of the West Classic and her first since 2011. She made the final of the Bank of the West Classic in 2010.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka has also been granted a wildcard and will be competing in her first United States event following the birth of her son Leo in December. Azarenka will be making her fifth appearance at Stanford where she won the singles title in 2010 and the doubles title in 2011.

2016 French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza will be making her second appearance at Stanford. In 2014 Muguruza teamed with Carla Suárez Navarro to win the Bank of the West Classic doubles title. That year she also advanced to the singles quarterfinals.

Fans will also get the opportunity to see two of the fastest rising stars in American tennis as Madison Keys and Bay Area native CiCi Bellis are scheduled to compete. Keys had a breakthrough 2016 season, winning her second WTA title, breaking into the World Top 10 and qualifying for the prestigious year-end WTA Championships for the first time in her career. She ended the year ranked a career-high World No.8. Bellis, a local product from nearby Atherton, Calif., is the youngest player ranked in the top-50 at just 18 years old. Currently ranked No. 42 in the world she advanced to the quarterfinals of last year’s Bank of the West Classic. As a qualifier at the 2016 US Open she advanced to the third round before falling to World No. 1 Angelique Kerber. Last year she also captured her first WTA title at the $125K Series event in Honolulu.

Other players to watch include 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, American CoCo Vandeweghe, two-time WTA singles titleist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Japanese stars Misaki Doi and Naomi Osaka. The Bank of the West Classic, a Premier WTA event, features a 28-player singles draw as well as a 16-team doubles draw. The event is owned and operated by IMG and serves as the opening women's event of the US Open Series.

WTA Acceptance List (as of June 19, 2017)

Garbiñe Mugaruza ESP 14
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova RUS 17
Madison Keys USA 18
Ana Konjuh CRO 28
Coco Vandeweghe USA 30
Lesia Tsurenko UKR 34
Timea Babos HUN 38
Alizé Cornet FRA 39
Katerina Siniakova CZE 40
Catherine Bellis USA 42
Alison Riske USA 45
Kristyna Pliskova CZE 46
Misaki Doi JPN 52
Qiang Wang CHN 55
Lara Arruabarrena ESP 60
Naomi Osaka JPN 61
Natalia Vikhlyantseva RUS 65
Varvara Lepchenko USA 67
Francesca Schiavone ITA 73
Magda Linette POL 75
Maria Sharapova (WC) RUS 179
Victoria Azarenka (WC) BLR NR

Azarenka to Return to Court at Bank of the West Classic | Press Releases - News | | Bank of the West Classic
Jun 19th, 2017 11:44 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka's return from maternity leave begins this week in Mallorca and the former World No.1 is eager to start a new chapter of her illustrious career.

'I think I can be better' - Azarenka lays down gauntlet on return | WTA Tennis
June 19, 2017

MALLORCA, Spain - Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka returns from maternity leave at the Mallorca Open this week - and yesterday she laid down a gauntlet to her rivals, saying that she can be even better than before.

"I think I'm more competitive - that quality never left me," the 27-year-old said in a press conference. "I really feel I haven't reached my potential yet and I think I can be better."

This was also behind her decision to bring her comeback forwards: originally scheduled for the American hard-court swing in July, Azarenka announced last month that she would be returning sooner than expected on grass.

"I thought I was tired of practicing - I needed something to practice for," she revealed. "It was not more about how I was ready physically, but whether I was ready mentally to go out there and get back into travelling with the team, to adjust everything."

To prepare for her comeback, Azarenka has been working as hard as ever - "a lot of blood, sweat and tears," she joked - but also more smartly.

"We had more than the time of the off-season, and were able to implement some of the things that when you play are hard to change," she explained. "So I worked a little bit on changing my technique, the biomechanics, to make sure that I can prolong my career."

What hasn't changed is Azarenka's attitude. "I always have the mentality of being really focused and to put everything I have on to the tennis court, and that didn't go anywhere," she declared.

The Mallorca Open is Azarenka's first tournament since her first-round loss at last year's Roland Garros, and she will open against World No.74 Risa Ozaki in her first match here. Currently unranked, she has been hitting the practice courts in Mallorca - while also finding time for some mother-son bonding in the spectacular setting of the Spanish island.
May 30th, 2017 01:30 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

The two-time Grand Slam champion sat down to discuss her comeback, motherhood, the state of the game and her surprise appearance in Paris.

May 30, 2017
Azarenka on playing again: 'If I didn't love it, I wouldn't have come back' | WTA Tennis

Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka stopped by "Live at Roland Garros" on Monday to chat with host Nick McCarvel about her imminent return to tennis, which is set to take place in three weeks at the Mallorca Open.

Though she is not competing in Paris, Azarenka made a surprise appearance at Kids' Day prior to the start of the second Grand Slam of the season.
"It was amazing - I was a little bit nervous actually because they said you have to hit targets, and I was like, 'Oh my god, in front of all these people,'" the two-time Australian Open champion said. "Once I stepped on the court, it felt like home, so I was very happy to be there."

Now there's a smile we've missed! 😊

Two-time Major champ @vika7 dropped by Chatrier (with a few of her friends) to help celebrate Kids Day.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 27, 2017
Azarenka will make her return to the tour after the birth of her son Leo in Mallorca ahead of Wimbledon, ahead of her previously announced return date of July 18 at the Bank of the West Classic.

"It's not really a comeback for me, it's more starting a second part of my career," Azarenka said. "It's different, it just feels different. The competition, I've been training and...I need to go out and play, I need to play matches, I need to be in front of the crowd, so I'm happy I'm going to start playing in a few weeks. Before I started to practice, I wanted to make sure I could accomplish some of the goals [I had] with training. That's why we said hard courts, [which] give us a lot of time to work.

"They told me like a month ago, 'You should go out and play,' and I said, 'I'm not sure, I don't know, I wanted hard courts,' but then I started playing more, some sets and stuff, and I just want to go...compete.
She added: "[Motherhood] kind of just puts tennis matches into a less serious mode, and it's just something that you enjoy more. I just love playing, and that's the only reason why I'm playing again. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't have come [back]."
In the meantime, the former World No.1 has been taking in the sights and sounds of Paris - something she said she never got much of a chance to do while in the routine of the tour.

Thank you for coming on Vika! Hear from @vika7 tonight on Live at Roland Garros from 7pm @rolandgarros @NickMcCarvel 🙌🎾
— Gigi Salmon (@gigi_salmon) May 29, 2017
"I came here for one of my best friend's weddings, and while I was here, I was like, 'Well, I would love to do a Kids' Day,'" she said. "The tournament's always been so nice to me, and I wanted to give back and I love Kids' Day in general. Then my trainer came and is like, 'Well, you might as well just train, and you can still have some of your free time, but we should put some work in.'

"I don't have that routine pressure, where you don't have to sleep at a certain hour, to eat and recover so I'm able to communicate with players and other people, which is great."

Watch the full interview with Azarenka below!

May 25th, 2017 03:39 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

May 24th, 2017 01:09 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Azarenka set to return at Mallorca Open
Azarenka set to return at Mallorca Open | WTA Tennis

The former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka is set to play her first tournament in over a year at the Mallorca Open.
May 24, 2017

Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka is set to play her first tournament in over a year at the Mallorca Open.
Earlier this week, Azarenka confirmed her intention to return to the tour during the grass season in time for Wimbledon.
The Mallorca Open begins on June 19th.

Who is coming to the @MallorcaOpen? YES! @vika7 #Azarenka! ������#dontcallitacomeback

— MallorcaOpen (@MallorcaOpen) May 24, 2017
The Mallorca Open will be Azarenka's first tournament since the 2016 French Open, where she was ranked at No.5. The two-time Australian Open champion subsequently announced she was expecting her first child and gave birth to a boy named Leo in December.

Since then, she has been working hard to get back on tour, with an initial return date scheduled for the Bank of the West Open in Stanford, California on July 18th.

In addition to Azarenka, the Mallorca Open will also be the site of Sabine Lisicki's return to competition. The 2013 Wimbledon finalist has not played a tournament in 2017 due to a shoulder injury.
May 22nd, 2017 07:09 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka
May 22nd, 2017 02:34 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Yes yes YES!!!
May 22nd, 2017 01:44 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka
Apr 24th, 2017 07:07 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Fed Cup - Sabalenka sends Belarus through to first Final
Fed Cup - State of play: Belarus 3-2 Switzerland

Fed Cup - Draws & Results
Apr 21st, 2017 09:10 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

What The WTA Special Ranking Rule Means For Serena, Azarenka

Learn more about what the WTA's Special Ranking rule means in maternity cases like Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.

Published April 20, 2017 12:15
News | WTA Tennis English

With Serena Williams' announcement that she is expecting her first child this fall and new mom Victoria Azarenka returning to action later this summer, here's how the WTA's Special Ranking Rule applies to both players and in all maternity cases:

To be eligible, a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and be ranked inside the Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing. The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after the last professional tournament played.

For maternity cases, players must be ready to play their first tournament within 12 months of birth.

The Special Ranking will be the ranking earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings:
-For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No.1
-For Victoria Azarenka, her Special Ranking is No.6

Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams.

In addition, any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations.

The complete details can be found in the 2017 WTA Rulebook - Special Ranking Rule: pg. 218-225; Singles Main Draw Wildcards: pg.67
Apr 19th, 2017 09:16 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

"Эдуард Дубров: "Вика встречалась с командой накануне. Очень просила нас выиграть, потому что хочет сыграть в финале". Belarus @ fedcuptennis
Captain says @ vichka35 asked team to win because she dreams to play in final
#tennisby #FedCup #BLRSUI #GoBelarus"

Mar 24th, 2017 11:24 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

She's back!
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