Victoria Azarenka recently pulled off a big win over Maria Sharapova to claim her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic edged Rafael Nadal in the longest major final of the Open Era.
But for Azarenka, it might be just a little more tricky to hold on to that euphoric feeling that comes after a huge win. That is, if the past year’s female champions prove to be an example. While Kim Clijsters, the Aussie Open’s 2010 titlist, made good with a semifinal loss to Azarenka, Li Na, Petra Kvitova, and (especially) Sam Stosur all failed to make much of a dent in the major tournaments after their victories. Vika needs to put the blinders on and push forward. She needs to follow the example of Djokovic, whose win she watched the next day.
Winning the three Grand Slams in a row could be in Azarenka’s future. A lot of things need to happen in her favor, including the continued poor form of Serena Williams. It’s still unclear whether Kvitova, who might prove Azarenka’s biggest rival, will get back the game that claimed her a Wimbledon crown, along with the WTA year-end championships. If so, the storyline might just develop into a Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova type deal, which would be extremely helpful to the WTA.
With the Williams sisters already on a downward spiral, or at least their typical roller coaster ride, they’re in danger of becoming quickly irrelevant. Meanwhile, Sharapova’s proven she’s back, having made the Wimbledon and Aussie Open finals. Yet does she have that extra fight to take her game one step further? Her loses in those championship matches were pretty huge. But if her serve continues to show staying power, she should find herself in the second weeks of many more majors to come.
Back to Azarenka. She needs to be composed as the newest World No. 1. Everyone may be thinking to the case of Ana Ivanovic, whose win at Roland Garros also propelled her to the highest height in the ranking. Of course, it also sent her game to low levels and a loss of confidence. Azarenka seems to have the fight in her, and it does appear similar to Djokovic’s own slightly abrasive personality.
As long as she keeps it going and doesn’t lose herself in the process, the upcoming hard court season is hers for the taking.
Put down the margarita next time, Maria. It seemed like your time to shine and reclaim the World No. 1 ranking at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, which began on October 25. That, however, was not to be with Petra Kvitova claiming the title over Victoria Azarenka. After dropping her first two matches in round robin play, the Russian withdrew from the event citing a left ankle injury she sustained in Japan weeks before.
As current World No. 2 Maria Sharapova, this year’s Wimbledon finalist, recently told reporters before the retirement: “I think I’m just fortunate enough to say that I’m here and I’m going to be competing. That, to me, is a big accomplishment by itself. The last couple of years at this time I was sipping a margarita on the beach and now I have another tournament.”
She continued: “It’s tough to talk about [No. 1] coming off the [ankle] injury in Tokyo and not even knowing if I’d be able to compete for the rest of the year.
At Istanbul, Sharapova had the chance to snatch the title from current top player Caroline Wozniacki. But by pulling out, the Dane, who’s been dating US Open golf champion Rory McIlroy, enjoys the achievement for the second year in a row.
And while the Russian chatted about drinking booze on beaches, Wozniacki offered more sober remarks about the top spot: “Of course when you’ve been No. 1 the whole year, you’d like to finish the last week as number one as well. That would mean a lot to me since not a lot of people have finished the year two times in a row as No. 1.” Congratulations, Wozniacki, for doing just that.
But this year’s WTA Championships, which saw the absence of this year’s Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters and 16-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, wasn’t only about Wozniacki and, previously, Sharapova. The competition was fierce and the predictions wonky as a cast of talented, but by no means dominating, women took to the courts.
Along with Wozniacki, reigning Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, who’s claimed three titles this year, 2011 French Open champion Li Na, two-time Grand Slam runner-up Vera Zvonareva, US Open titlist Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska, who’s won three tournaments since August and Marion Bartoli, after Sharapova’s exit, all vied for a chance at the year’s final trophy.
Azarenka looked to have the most solid chance of taking the title out of the above cast of women with a win in Luxembourg without dropping a set.
Plus, she made some noise off-court, too. She told reporters before the event kicked off: “[Money is] a good motivation and I’d be lying if I said that we just play for the love of the game and the points. You know when you’re down you think that it could be a bit more money and it might pump you up a bit.”
Well, it’s no margarita, but that kind of cash could be enough reason for the Belarusian to notch the biggest win of her young (and loud) career one day. This just wasn’t quite her year.
Congratulations to Kvitova on a huge win after a wonderful Wimbledon. Let’s see how the current World No. 2 fares in 2012.