The road back to the top hasn’t been easy for Victoria Azarenka. The Belarussian was once the toast of tennis, winning Grand Slams and ranking atop the WTA. But a series of injuries curtailed her career and they continue to hamper her progress.
Tuesday in Wuhan, Azarenka had to retire in the second set to British qualifier Johanna Konta due to a minor leg injury.
Despite all the changes to her team adding Wim Fissette and Sascha Bajin, and improved play, Azarenka, who ranks just No. 23, says she still has a way to go.
“I believe I need to get faster,” Azarenka said. “I need to get a little bit more mobile. I lost that, the first one‑two step movement that I had before in terms of endurance. I feel the longer the match goes, the better I get. I never had problems playing long matches where I get tired. That’s not a problem.
“I just need to, you know, focus on those things to get my movement actually a lot more sharp than I have. That’s it. I feel like I’m pretty strong in my body, but I need to get quicker, I need to get faster.”
Azarenka’s been badgered about her weight – something she won’t discuss. Her results this year have been decent but not great. Other than reaching the Doha finals where she lost to Lucie Safarova, Azarenka hasn’t reached another tournament semifinal since her Brisbane final run at the start of 2014!
And while she’s played Serena tough – taking a set in all three meetings with the World No. 1 this year – Azarenka is just 11-9 vs Top 20s this season.
“The game is getting better,” Azarenka said. “Even though I couldn’t move today, I served really well. So there are positive things. I just need time to make sure that I put a really good amount of work in and dedicate myself and focus on fitness, focus on few things, and I’ll be fine.”
Azarenka made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the US Open, extending her streak of reaching at least one Slam quarter in seven straight years. She now heads to Beijing next week.
“For me, it’s a little bit more difficult to motivate myself on the tournaments outside of Grand Slams,” she added. “That’s something that I have to fight through again. But definitely already everything is kind of prepared. Right now I just have tournaments that I have to go through. I try to work on the things in the tournaments already that I would like to apply a little bit more next year. But it is what it is. I just need to get better.”
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