Australian Open 2023: Victoria Azarenka blasts Novak Djokovic cheating speculation after his win over Alex de Minaur

Two-time Open champion Victoria Azarenka has weighed in on the debate raging around Novak Djokovic and his supposed hamstring injury after his rampant quarter-final victory against Australian Alex de Minaur brought the rule into the spotlight again.

The Belarusian says she was the victim of a similar smear campaign a decade ago after a medical timeout controversy erupted during her victory over Sloane Stephens in the women’s semi-final in 2013.

The former world No. 1 took a medical time-out in the final stages of the match after blowing five match points, claiming a rib injury had flared up.

Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live Coverage of ATP + WTA Tour Tournaments including Every Finals Match. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

She went on to win her second singles title at Melbourne Park, but describes the criticism she received afterwards as “one of the worst things I’ve ever gone through in my professional career.”

After Djokovic’s straight-sets thumping of De Minaur, despite a heavily strapped left hamstring, commentator Todd Woodbridge suggested the nine-time Australian Open champion may have been “playing up” the injury as a tactical ploy.

Djokovic hit back at those suggestions in the subsequent press conference, saying “only my injuries are questioned.

“It is interesting to see how the narrative surrounding me continues … that is different compared to other players that have been going through similar situations.”

Azarenka empathised with Djokovic, saying “I actually can resonate with what Novak said the other day.”

“Assumptions and judgments, all those comments, are just sh*t because nobody’s there to see the full story.

“It didn’t matter how many times I said my story, it did not cut through.

“Actually it’s funny that you’re saying that because I was thinking about it.

“It took me 10 f**king years to get over it.”

Azarenka is gunning for her third title at Melbourne Park, facing reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in her semi-final.

If she prevails, a decade on from her last title in Australia, she’ll become the just the fourth mother in the Open era to win a grand slam, after Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters.

Azarenka is the last woman to successfully defend an Australian Open title, and gave birth to her son Leo in December 2016.

She puts her twilight-era resurgence down to a shift in mentality, after failing to get past the fourth round of a Slam since the 2020 US Open.

“I played with a lot of fear and anxiety so it really was difficult to be brave and to make the right choices in the important moments when you feel anxious and hesitant,” she said.

“I worked a lot on my mindset and challenged myself on my things I wouldn’t really do before and pushed myself forward.”

Read related topics:Melbourne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *