BRISBANE: Belarussian Victoria Azarenka has been Ms. Australia during the past two seasons, winning back-to-back titles at the country’s Grand Slam. In 2012, she came of age by devastating Maria Sharapova for the crown, which keyed her ascent to the No. 1 ranking. She became the second player of her generation to hold up one of her sport’s biggest trophy, following Petra Kvitova, who win Wimbledon in 2011. She surpassed her then good friend Caroline Wozniacki by reaching No. 1 and winning a major, something the Dane has yet to do. She left another member of her generation, Dominika Cibulkova in the dust, and then after winning her second major at the 2013 Australian Open, eclipsed Kvitova (whom she hasn’t played since 2011), as the tall and powerful Czech has been unable to win another major due or reach No. 1 to her often poor health and erratic play.
Azarenka is a tough, in-your-face sort who is an interesting character and is endearing to some, but she can ignite controversy. That’s what occurred last year in Melbourne when some accused her of gamesmanship in her semifinal win over Sloane Stephens when she took a medical timeout at a critical moment in the contest. She was not penalized severely on court, but off the court; she was put through the ringer. She faced the music the day before the final, meeting the press head on while at the same time her coach, Sam Sumyk, called some critics vultures.
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