Australian Open: Viktoria Azarenka before the semi-finals: “Ten cursed years!”

Status: 01/25/2023 1:43 p.m.

Ten years after her second and last Grand Slam title, Viktoria Azarenka has returned to center stage in Melbourne. The now 33-year-old talks about panic attacks and fear of failure on the sidelines of the Australian Open and explains: “Tennis courts trigger those fears.”

By Jannik Schneider, Melbourne

” Truly ? From this sign of sponsorship to the next? Incredulous, Viktoria Azarenka asks her physical trainer and adds in a very critical tone: “They are a bit far.” The 33-year-old Belarusian player is a responsible athlete. Not only the PR consultants on the WTA tour regularly feel this at press conferences – when discussing sensitive topics.

The 33-year-old sometimes gives her own team more work and questions things, as the matchless Wednesday at the Melbourne facility showed. had to Francois Bougy During a warm-up exercise before tennis practice, Azarenka explained exactly why the lane in which she had to anticipate tennis balls and then catch them with a left and right hand was so big. The coach simply replied: “Yes you can do it”.

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After nearly two weeks on the east coast of Australia, it should come as no surprise that she didn’t seem to be doing much wrong in the next practice. Azarenka is in the semi-finals for the first time since her two titles in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013. She beat former tournament champion Sofia Kenin, the top seed Madison Keys and the highly traded number three of the tournament, Jessica Pegula, so all the greats of the WTA circuit. Now wait with the WimbledonWinner Elena Rybakina, who knocked out world no.

Azarenka on Panic Attacks: “Tennis Courts Trigger It”

Instead of sports, Azarenka’s press conference was about other things: panic attacks and fear of failure. Some will immediately remember the Miami Open last year. At that time, she left her young opponent Linda Fruhvirtova during the match, shook her hand and disappeared. Later, she publicly regretted this appearance. “Being in such an uncomfortable situation is scary“Azarenka explained now that success is back. “Tennis courts, probably for everyone, but especially for me, trigger those fears a lot.” It took him a long time to really perceive and deal with them.

Your team around trainer Maxime Tchoutakian is now a support for her. The Frenchman is 28, was in the top 600 in the world rankings five years ago and got his coaching license at the famous Mouratoglou-Academy of Nice. There, two years ago, he gained confidence with Azarenka, who put him in front of the U.S. Open Promoted to sole trainer in 2021. With physical trainer Francois Bougy and physiotherapist Alan Obst present them below as a closed unit. Azarenka looks solid.

Azarenka on sexual violence “It happens left and right”

This was not the case for a long time. The Belarusian player has lived in California for many years. After the birth of her son Leo six years ago, there was a custody battle with the father which is why she was not allowed to leave the state for a long time and missed so many tournaments , of which twice the australian open.

As a result, there were no great successes, but she still took responsibility in the WTA players’ council. During the U.S. Open Last year, she was the first to clearly point out sexual violence on the women’s circuit, to expose toxic relationships between players and coaches, the dangers for young players and to demand new rules for better protection of those responsible. “There’s something going on left and right on the tour”, says Azarenka. Previously there were rape allegations against a former coach of the French player Fiona Ferro become public.

“Ten years to recover”

So now just one more step towards the finale of australian open. Like ten years ago, 2013, unforgettable. In the semi-final against Sloane Stephens she took a long medical break at the time, left for ten minutes, then took the win. Then she got bogged down in a TV interview and later in the press with two different injury statements. The media echo was therefore negative. “It was one of the worst experiences of my career, the way I was treated publicly after that, how I had to explain myself until 10:30 p.m. because nobody wanted to believe me. I put ten fucking years of getting over it.”

In this world, there is sometimes an incredibly great desire for stories that contain heroes but also villains. In this regard, she has to agree with Novak Djokovic, who revealed something similar. “But we are not bad guys”Azarenka said. “We’re not heroes either. We’re normal people going through so much.”

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