The big marquee match of the first week this new year never happened last night, naturally. Victoria Azarenka was to clash with rival Serena Williams in the Brisbane semifinals last night but the Belarussian withdrew just 30 minutes before the meet.
The reason? According to Azarenka, it was because of toe injury initially sustained from a pedicure gone wrong. The remarkable story goes that Azarenka had a pedicure 10 days ago, but the procedure left her right big toenail too short and eventually, from play and pressure, the toe became too infected and too painful to continue.
“It’s just very unfortunate timing, because I was really looking forward to playing and excited,” Azarenka was quoted as saying.
“But I’m also quite happy I had two matches in already, which was kind of the point to come here and get some matches.
“But, you know, the health is definitely something that’s more important.
“For me it’s important that the procedure has been done and the worst already passed by. Just needs some time to get it better.”
Despite the alleged injury, Azarenka still “managed” to demolish Ksenia Pervak a round earlier by a score of 6-1, 6-0.
Also not to be lost is the fact Azarenka had lost nine straight and 11 of 12 to Serena. And with a pressure-packed Australian Open title defense upcoming, another loss to Serena would not do Azarenka’s confidence or mental mindset any good.
So no, I don’t buy it but I understand it. And it may be the smart move. But a pedicure? Geez. That’s a new one.
Staying on injuries, JW Tsonga is already damaged. With hopes high this year under new coach Roger Rasheed, Tsonga hurt his hamstring last night at the Hopman Cup during a mixed doubles match. The injury has forced him out of the Sydney event.
“I don’t know exactly what I have but I felt something during the singles and the mixed doubles so I didn’t have time to know exactly what is it, was a bit more sore during the mixed doubles so for me it was better to quit, for the other team and for Mathilde,” said Tsonga.
The Frenchman is hopeful to be back in good health for Melbourne. Fingers crossed because those hamstrings are tricky.
On the court, with Azarenka out Serena, who battled her own toe issues last month, will face Anastasia P for the Brisbane title. Serena has won 15 straight matches and 34 of 35. In the men’s semifinals, Andy Murray, a straight set winner over Denis Istomin, will square off against Kei Nishikori in a good one. The earlier semi features Marcos Baghdatis against Grigor Dimitrov. Marcos had a nice win over Gilles Simon while Dimitrov backed up his Milos Raonic win by knocking out Jurgen Melzer.
In Doha, Richard Gasquet is currently up a set on Daniel Brands. In the later semi Nikolay Davydenko duels David Ferrer.
We’ve already had a mild upset in Chennai. The stylish Benoit Paire edged second seed Marin Cilic in three.
SATURDAY BRISBANE SCHEDULE
PAT RAFTER ARENA start 12:00 noon
M Baghdatis (CYP) vs G Dimitrov (BUL) – ATP
 A Murray (GBR) vs  K Nishikori (JPN) – ATP
after suitable rest
G Dimitrov (BUL) / K Nishikori (JPN) vs M Melo (BRA) / T Robredo (ESP) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
 S Williams (USA) vs A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) – WTA
 A Groenefeld (GER) / K Peschke (CZE) vs B Mattek-Sands (USA) / S Mirza (IND) – WTA
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