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  Topic Review (Newest First)
Yesterday 01:45 PM
joshum From the SI player box

Over the course of my 10-year professional tennis career, I must have played in about 200 tournaments and visited hundreds of cities around the world. This week I find myself in Paris, the site of the second Grand Slam of the year, Roland Garros. Paris sits at the top of the list of my favorite cities and every time I come here, I get that special feeling. I can’t really describe it. It’s just that feeling of being in a place where every building is filled with history and every cobblestone tells a story. The architecture takes your breath away and you can feel this city’s soul on every street corner.


Azarenka: Reflecting on the first months of the 2016 season by Victoria Azarenka
France was one of the first countries I visited as a young tennis player. The first time I played a tournament here, I must have been nine. It took place at a small city in France and I remember it was a clay court event not far from Paris. I was so excited—I counted the sleeps till I could get on the court and play.
My next memory is playing in the super prestigious Les Petits As event in Tarbes, France. The best under-14 kids compete there and it was an amazing experience. I was a very competitive junior to say the least, but mostly it’s because I played one year below my age group so the kids I was competing against were usually bigger and stronger than me. I remember playing a very talented Swiss girl named Timea Bacsinszky in Tarbes, who beat me. She was very good then and went on to become a great tennis player.

Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
I was 14 the first time I played at Roland Garros. I remember walking the grounds and being in awe of this historic Grand Slam. That year I was a part of the ITF’s team of juniors. We had eight girls and 10 boys on the team, and four coaches that took care of us, and the whole group travelled together for two months across Europe. My first junior Roland Garros experience didn’t go too well—I lost to Shahar Peeer in the third round.
The next year, at 15, I was already the No. 1 junior and won the junior Australian Open that year. In Paris, I lost in singles to Alisa Kleybanova, yet won the doubles title with Agnes Szavay. That was the last time I played juniors.

Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
At 16, I played my first Roland Garros as a pro. I entered qualifying and had to win three matches in order to get into the main draw, which I did. In the first round I played a Spanish girl named Anabel Medina Garrigues on Court 3. I remember being up 6–0, 3–1 but the match kept going and going and going and before I knew it, I ended up losing the battle 9–7 in the third set. It was a major heartbreak—it definitely seemed like the end of the world that day. I broke into the WTA Top 100 that year.

The 2016 edition marks my 12th year at Roland Garros as I missed 2014 with a foot injury. I was pretty devastated to not being able to play that year. It was so tough I couldn’t even watch the event; just tried to pretend that it wasn’t happening.


2016 French Open preview roundtable: Predictions, dark horses by SI Staff
I took a lot of time off from tennis during the 2014 season and tried to do things I’ve never done before. I came to Paris for the first time outside of Roland Garros in the fall and stayed for almost a month. I wanted to challenge myself by being in a place where I wasn’t very comfortable. While I’ve been to Paris every year for more than a decade, I didn’t know the city too well. When you are playing tennis, you don’t get a chance to explore the city or go to museums, it’s mostly all about the tennis site and the hotel. Being in Paris on my free time turned into a life-changing experience. It was unnerving at times because I had to figure out my own way and navigate through the culture and the language. I rented a place near the Opera and wandered the beautiful streets. I took the time to enjoy coffee breaks, meet new people and study architecture. I tried to immerse myself fully in the French culture and as I learned more, I began to understand the French people better.
Through the years I’ve become a big fan of football and while spending time in France, I started going to Le Parc des Princes and supporting Paris St. Germain. The team has been doing so well over the last few seasons and has brought so much excitement to Paris. I definitely have a better connection with Parisians because of PSG and its crazy passion for football.

Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images
As hard as it was being absent during the 2014 Roland Garros, sometimes being away from the tour can be quite therapeutic. I remember my match against Serena in Paris last year. I was still coming back from the foot problem and wasn’t fully ready, but it was an amazing match and I remember it clearly. I look back on that match and it makes me want to perform well in Paris in front of these amazing crowds that much more.

I’ve been asked quite a bit about my goal for this tournament. Of course, I go into every single event wanting to win it. But in addition to that, I want to appreciate the process and remember the reason why I am playing tennis in the first place. How am I different today from the girl who played qualies here 10 years ago? Clay can be quite tricky so it’s important that I learn something new about this surface every day and incorporate that knowledge in my matches. I want to enjoy the journey each and every day. The practices, the grueling fitness work—it all makes the results so much more rewarding.

After being away from the sport for almost a full season, you try to work so hard to prove people wrong, to prove that you are still a champion. Sometimes focusing so much on proving others wrong makes you forget why you play tennis in the first place. The love for the sport is what brought me to Paris in the first place more than 16 years ago. And all these years later, my passion hasn’t changed. I am as excited for this Roland Garros journey as I was when I was nine-years-old and starting my first clay court match in France.
May 12th, 2016 05:34 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

sounds pretty frustrated. i think she was too frustrated to play Begu, if she wasn't as emotional she still might find a way even with the comprised back. but she never play her best tennis when she doesn't feel 100%.

she has about 10 days. let's see.
May 11th, 2016 06:22 PM
Queen Victoria
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

This sounds horrible...
May 11th, 2016 03:10 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Azarenka first big casualty of Rome
Azarenka first big casualty of Rome | Internazionali BNL d'Italia
di Ian Baker 11 May 2016

Victoria Azarenka was distraught after becoming the first big name to exit the Italian Open this year. The fourth seed was beaten 6-3 6-2 by Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania and was almost lost for words afterwards.

She was hampered by a continued back problem and is unsure what that may mean for her French Open prospects.

“I was trying but it didn’t work,” said the Belarusian. “The back’s not good right now. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know what to tell you. I’m very disappointed obviously with that. I thought I was okay and was ready to play and came back, so I’m just disappointed.

“Right now I have not much of things to say, to be honest with you guys. We’ll see what happens. I’m not going to think about future.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t look at the big picture right now. I’m sorry. I have to be here, guys, but I don’t want to be here answering these questions because right now I’m disappointed of what happened today. That’s what it is.

“It’s just unfortunate that I can’t play my best tennis. She’s a good player. Obviously the clay court suits her really well. The conditions work well for her.”

While Azarenka suffered disappointment, it was a straightforward passage to the third round for third seed Garbine Muguruza who beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-1 6-0 in just 47 minutes.
May 10th, 2016 07:40 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

News | WTA Tennis English

USANA & The WTA's Madrid Aces

Every time a WTA player hits an ace, they raise money for an amazing cause - and it's doubled for USANA Ambassadors. Which ambassador hit the most in Madrid?

Published May 09, 2016 12:11

The 2016 Aces For Humanity campaign was launched by USANA and the WTA at the BNP Paribas Open and continued in Madrid at the Mutua Madrid Open, where every ace hit by a WTA player at Premier-level events translates into a donation to the USANA True Health Foundation, whose mission is to provide the most critical human necessities to those who are suffering or in need around the world. For every ace hit by any player the WTA donates $5, and for every ace hit by a USANA Brand Ambassador, it's $10.

USANA Brand Ambassadors Eugenie Bouchard, Samantha Stosur, Kristina Mladenovic, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Monica Puig, and Zheng Saisai (Zheng Saisai and Caroline Wozniacki did not play in Madrid's main draw) hit 21 of the 243 aces in the Caja Magica - raising a grand total of $1,320 throughout the week. Stosur hit the most with seven aces.

May 5th, 2016 05:23 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Yeah she seemed so uninterested in the pre tournie pics. Poor gurl was sick
May 5th, 2016 04:26 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

that's why she looked a bit tired and not came to madrid early as she was sick the week before as well.
May 4th, 2016 05:15 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Back Injury Forces Azarenka Out
News | WTA Tennis English

No.4 seed Victoria Azarenka joined the Mutua Madrid Open casualty list on Wednesday, pulling out ahead of her third round clash with Louisa Chirico because of a back injury.

Published May 04, 2016 12:15

MADRID, Spain - No.4 seed Victoria Azarenka has joined the Mutua Madrid Open casualty list, pulling out of her third-round meeting with Louisa Chirico because of a back injury.

Following the exits of Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza, Azarenka was the highest seed left in the draw. However, after aggravating her lower back during morning practice the Belarusian elected to err on the side of caution.

"Unfortunately in my first match I think I tweaked my back a little bit. It was really cold, and, I don't know, I think it's much easier to get a little bit hurt when it's that cold," Azarenka said during a press conference. "And the second match obviously I was in a lot of discomfort. Having a day off I thought it was going to get better. Today before my warm-up it did feel better, but once I started hitting it came back.

"I don't feel that I'm able to compete today. I'm just trying to make the smart decision and see the big picture."

Azarenka's now faces a race against time to be fit for next week's Internazionali BNL d'Italia - her last chance to fine-tune her clay court game ahead of the French Open.

"We'll see how it goes. Really going to take it day by day and make sure my body is ready," she said when asked about her chances of playing in the Italian capital. "I don't know. I don't really have a particular answer why it happened. There could have been couple of things. I was really sick the week before that.

"I'm just trying to make the test, make sure there is nothing serious, and try to treat it as best as possible. My plan is to be ready for Rome, so hopefully I'll be able to do that."

Chirico, the youngest player remaining in the tournament, advances to her first quarterfinal at a WTA Premier event where she will face fellow surprise package, Daria Gavrilova.
Apr 23rd, 2016 11:47 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

it was already gifed just hours after the match ended.
don't ya mess with angryrenka, crowds...
Apr 22nd, 2016 04:06 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Yeah, that gesture would probably get you a fine in almost any sport.

But let's face it. Vika's feistiness is why:

1. We love her.
2. She wins.

(Somebody needs to make a gif of that. But you didn't hear that from an admin).
Apr 22nd, 2016 03:04 PM
Break My Rapture
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

That seriously ranks as a rude gesture? We live in such a pissy world nowadays.
Apr 22nd, 2016 07:29 AM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

mmm always in trouble....feisty character

Azarenka Fined $ 2,500 For “Rude Gesture" Towards Russian Fans
Apr 19th, 2016 03:09 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Виктория Азаренко: Хочу предоставить себе шанс быть лучшим игроком, которым только могу стать

Саша Бажин. Величие признаёт величие
Apr 18th, 2016 02:23 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Mixed fortunes for Russia and Belarus

By Richard van Poortvliet

Russia and Belarus will wake up on Monday morning in very different frames of mind. The Russians will start life outside of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group for the first time in almost 19 years, with Belarus replacing them amongst tennis’ elite for the first time in their history.

“This is a wonderful event for tennis in Belarus and something that the whole country can be proud of,” said the Belarus Fed Cup Captain, Eduard Dubrou.

Belarus’ ascension to the top tier of women’s tennis was not necessarily unexpected, especially considering they had world No. 5 Victoria Azarenka among their ranks.

The 26-year-old came into the tie in stunning form, winning back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami; something only achieved by her hero Steffi Graff (twice) and Kim Clijsters. She also came to Moscow on a 12 match-winning streak in all competitions and was undefeated in the Fed Cup in over six years.

Azarenka’s teammate in the Fed Cup team, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who claimed the crucial fourth rubber win over Margarita Gasparyan in three sets, said what a physiological boost it gives the team, having some one as potent as the 26-year-old amongst their ranks.

“It is really good to have a player like this and she has a lot of experience. She is able to pass on this experience to our team and we can look at how she is practicing and how she is playing,” said Sasnovich.

The Belarus No. 1 had an excellent weekend. She dispatched Gasparyan in the opening singles on Saturday with a minimum of fuss, before battling past Darya Kasatkina in a tough three-set battle.

Azarenka was delighted at helping her country into the World Group for the first time, while she also had a rare opportunity to play in front of her whole family, who had made the short trip to Moscow from Minsk, though she did admit it was “a little bit nerve-wracking.”

For Kasatkina, this was something of a baptism of fire. The precociously talented 18-year-old was overlooked for live singles action two months ago when Russia surprisingly lost to the Netherlands, but the Tolyatti native was thrown in at the deep end against Belarus.

‘Dasha,’ as she is called by her teammates, picked up her first singles point by beating Sasnovich in three sets, but the match against Azarenka in the reverse singles proved a bridge too far. Never-the-less, the World No. 5 from Belarus was mightily impressed by what Kasatkina had to offer.

“I really love the passion and the fight that she plays with and I think that it will give her opportunities to get good results and I really love that approach to the game,” Azarenka said of Kasatkina, who has reached a career high 32 in the world rankings.

Russia will now have to contemplate life outside of the Fed Cup World Group for the first time since 1997. This is very much a side in transition, with captain Anastasia Myskina emphasizing the need to put their faith in youth.

“We brought a completely new team, a different team from the past and you have to start somewhere,” she said adding that “we’ll have to pick ourselves up again,” after being knocked out of the World Group.

However, for Belarus, exciting times now await this group of players who gain immense pride from representing their country, while the emergence of 17-year-old Vera Lapko, who like Azarenka before her, won the Australian Open junior girls title, is likely to give captain Dubrou even more options in the future.

“We have a very small country where only 9.5 million people live and the fact that our voice can now be heard around the whole world is a wonderful achievement,” Dubrou concluded.

Apr 17th, 2016 09:18 PM
Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Belarus scale new heights after win in Moscow

By Richard van Poortvliet

MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Belarus have made history by reaching the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group for the first time in the country’s history after taking an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie against Russia in Moscow, following victories for Victoria Azarenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Sunday.

Sasnovich got the all-important third point for her country after coming from a set down to beat Margarita Gasparyan and she sent the hundreds of Belarus supporters in the stands into raptures, as she sealed victory when her opponent could only send a forehand into the net. The result meant that Russia drop from the World Group for the first time in almost 19 years.

"This means so much for our country, for Belarus and it is really big. It is something special to get into the World Group for the first time in history and we are all really happy about his," a jubilant Sasnovich said.

The 22-year-old didn’t do things the easy way, as she dropped the first set to an impressive Gasparyan, who had never played a more important Fed Cup match in her life.

However, the Belarus No. 2 decided to throw caution to the wind in the second set and take more risks – a move that paid dividends.

"I started to play my game in the second set, while in the first set I was nervous a little bit I think and in the second and third set I played my game, so I won," Sasnovich added.

Gasparyan had no answers to her opponents attacking play as the Minsk native crucially managed to cut out the unforced errors from her game to take the second set 61.

Chants of 'Belarus, Belarus' filled the Luzhniki Small Sports Arena as the visiting fans sensed their player was on the cusp of victory. She would eventually seal the decider 75 and wrap up the win in two hours and 45 minutes.

"I have never seen that she [Sasnovich] has played this well," Gasparyan admitted. "She had a good match yesterday against Dasha [Darya Kasatkina] and today with me."

Sasnovich was able to complete the victory for Belarus after Victoria Azarenka had produced an excellent display of tennis to beat the talented Russian teenager Kasatkina.

Azarenka had not lost a match in the Fed Cup in over six years and by the way she started it looked as that record was in no threat of being broken. Kasatkina struggled to stay with the sheer power and precision of her opponent: she clenched her fists and tried to contain a shout of 'come on' when she netted another powerful serve to give the world No. 5 the first set.

Azarenka seemed to be in control, but errors started to creep into her game and a rejuvenated Kasatkina managed to draw the match level at a set apiece.

"I gave her the chance to be a little bit more aggressive and she definitely used it," Azarenka said. "I really love the passion and the fight that she plays with and I think that it will give her opportunities to get good results and I really love that approach to the game."

Unfortunately Kasatkina did not start the deciding set well as she dropped her serve in her opening service game for the third consecutive set. However, she ran Azarenka close in a marathon second game, the world No. 5 just about squeezing through.

Azarenka wobbled when serving for the match in the eighth game, but Kasatkina’s serve was equally unsure and the Belarus No. 1 broke back to win the match as the Russian teenager sent a backhand down the line long.

"I think today was a very difficult challenge in front of me. It was the crowd, it was the court, it was the opponent, but I am glad that I stayed strong and found a way, even when you are not playing your best, to give yourselves opportunities and I have done that and can be proud of that," Azarenka admitted.

Delight for Belarus, which reaches the heights of the World Group for the first time. Russia, however, begin start life out of the World Group for the first time since 1997, but - given the potential of their new generation of players like Kasatkina and Gasparyan - don’t expect Anastasia’s charges to spend too long out of the Fed Cup top flight.
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