Azarenko continues victorious tradition

The past year has probably been the best in the career of Belarus’ top tennis player. Victoria has begun the new season with a brilliant victory at the WTA tournament in Australian Sydney, bringing the number of her professional titles to nine.

During the Australian Open Championship — the first tournament of the Grand Slam series, held in Melbourne — the Belarusian tennis player easily passed the first round, becoming a major contender for victory.

The final match in Sydney was rather dramatic, with Victoria facing a real challenge in her opponent, Chinese Li Na. This year, the Chinese player (who was defeated by Azarenko in the final in Istanbul) was battling for her reputation. A year ago, she celebrated a victory in Sydney while Azarenko had to leave the tournament after its quarter-finals (losing to Kim Clijsters). Moreover, Li Na defeated Victoria in the fourth round of the Australian Open Championship (but later lost to Clijsters as well).

Undoubtedly, the recent finals were full of intrigue. Anticipating this, Azarenko didn’t try to conceal her joy at facing the Chinese player. “Over the last two years, she’s done well in Australia. We’ve always had interesting matches, so I’m looking forward to meeting her in the final. This is a good opportunity to try my strength,” she noted.

While Li Na was trying to discover Azarenko’s weaknesses, Victoria managed to win the first set within half an hour (6:2). However, her rival quickly turned the situation on its head, winning the second set 6:1. The third was full of thrills, as Azarenko served powerful aces. Delicate rallying was replaced by mistakes and high emotions. After much torment, the Belarusian proved luckier, breaking Li Na’s serve unexpectedly (when the score was 4:3). She then managed to turn the match to her benefit.

The tournament in Melbourne also saw success for Azarenko, as she easily beat Heather Watson of the UK (seeded 106th) — 6:1, 6:0. In previous years, Azarenko’s best result at the Australian Open Championship has been to reach the quarter-finals: in 2010. In the doubles, she has reached the finals twice.

Alongside Victoria Azarenko, two more Belarusian tennis players are in the Australian Open Championship. Unfortunately, 62nd seed Anastasia Yekimova, who reached the third round in Melbourne in 2007, lost to Italian Romina Oprandi in the first match of the first round — 4:6, 1:6. Meanwhile, Olga Govortsova, who has never reached further than the first round in Melbourne, continues after defeating Austrian Patricia Mayr-Achleitner — 6:2, 6:4.

Max Mirny is the only Belarusian man taking part, having recently triumphed in the doubles in Brisbane — partnering Canadian Daniel Nestor. He will try to surpass his achievement of 2007, when (with Jonas Bjorkman) he reached the semi-finals of the Australian Slam. Last year, Mirny lost only in the semi-finals.

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