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01-26-2013, 08:19 PM #1
[Tennis] Azarenka puts controversy behind her to lift trophy
Victoria Azarenka admitted she expected a more hostile reception from the Melbourne Park crowd in her Australian Open final against Li Na.
The Belarusian top seed dropped the first set after holding serve just once from four games but got better as the match went on to wear down Li, who rolled her left ankle twice during the second and third sets.
Azarenka was pilloried for taking successive injury timeouts at a crucial point of her semi-final win over Sloane Stephens on Thursday, even though she said in her on-court interview straight after winning that it was because she was on the verge of 'choking'.
The world number one later insisted that what she had meant was she had been struggling to breathe because of a back injury but that did not prevent her copping plenty of heat from critics who suggested her tactics had been against the spirit of the rules.
With that in mind, Azarenka had expected the crowd to be more negative towards her but regardless she put the incident from Thursday aside to complete successive Australian Open triumphs with a three-set win.
"Well, I was expecting way worse, to be honest actually," Azarenka said after the 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory.
"What can you do? You just have to go out there and try to play tennis in the end of the day.
"That's what it was all about, it's a tennis match, tennis battle, (the) final of the Australian Open, I was there to play that.
"The things what happened in the past, I did the best thing I could to explain, to do everything I could, and it was left behind me already.
"It isn't easy, that's for sure, but I knew what I had to do, I had to stay calm, I had to stay positive, I just had to deal with the things that came onto me.
"I was actually really happy that I went through so many things knowing that I can still produce the tennis that I can and keep the focus that I can (and) it just motivates me to be a better player."
The first time Li fell Azarenka lost the five points that followed the resumption as she lost concentration but after the Chinese sixth seed tumbled again there was no let-up as Azarenka won five of the final six games to secure her triumph.
And Azarenka, who broke nine times from 12 opportunities, agreed that she had simply won the big points when it mattered against Li, who also broke seven times but from 18 chances.
"In these kind of matches you always have to take the opportunity of the important moments," she added.
"In the second set, in the third set, that's what I was doing better.
"In the first set, she was really on top of me, I think, she was really going for her shots and making everything happen.
"Then I just had to readjust and really take advantage of when she gives me an opportunity."