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Victoria Azarenko speaks about tennis and herself

Ms. Azarenko’s success is always in the news but she rarely speaks to journalists herself, except to make brief official comments. However, while recoveing from her recent injury, in Minsk, she happily gave us an interview which lasted over an hour
By Dmitry Komashko

Victoria, before your injury, you enjoyed an impressive run of 15 consecutive victories. Despite this, you’ve lost your place as number one seed. Does this upset you?
My rating is not the most important thing for me; it’s just a pleasant bonus. Victories in matches and tournaments are much more important, especially those in the Grand Slam. By the way, I won’t be absent long, as I’m due to return for a tournament in Madrid; I’m not worried that it’ll be difficult to regain my lost position.

Does friendship exist in professional sport?
None of the other tennis players are my best friend. We are in competition but I am friendly with many of the girls. Masha Kirilenko, Yelena Vesnina and a few others sometimes go to the cinema with me, or we have dinner or just hang out. 

You’re so much in the public eye, being discussed and judged. Does this bother you?
I’ve never thought of myself as a sports celebrity and I firmly believe that it’s important to stay ‘human’. When people approach me in a shop or on the street, telling me that they support me, asking me a question or requesting a photo with me, I never brush them aside. On the other hand, of course, there are limitations. For example, I have to be careful how I present myself on social networks, as I’m a role model to many people. I don’t wish to appear stupid or badly behaved.

Your participation in the Federation Cup caused much discussion. Will you take part again?
I don’t like it when people try to intimate that I’m motivated only by money rather than by a desire to represent my country. Believe me, I always remember who I am and which country I represent. I’ve won two Olympic medals, which was a first for our nation in tennis. Thanks to my victories, lots of people have learnt about our country. As for the Federation Cup, last year, I refused to participate in agreement with other leading tennis players; we were protesting at the International Federation having changed its rules without the agreement of athletes. I intend to always play for the national team; whatever anyone may say about me, I’m a patriot. It’s disrespectful for others to try to make me out to be something I’m not.

How do you view the Belarusian team’s prospects?
It’s hard to say, because I don’t really know the Belarusian players’ abilities, apart from those of Olga Govortsova. I just don’t see them, and it’s hard to judge on one or two matches. Tatiana Puchek was great but I know we lack new young players. On the other hand, I know that Ms. Govortsova can play at the highest level; potentially, our team could do well, even winning the Cup.

You once held a show match with Caroline Wozniacki, in Minsk, and promised to bring other famous players to our capital...
I planned to organise a match last year but failed to find support, which surprised and disappointed me. I still plan to promote tennis in Belarus, using matches to support my Dreaming Heart Foundation Charity Fund, which aims to make sick children’s dreams come true.
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