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Azarenka defends medical timeout

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Originally published on: 25/01/13 00:00

It probably wasn’t the post-game reaction Azarenka had envisioned for herself as she eased into a comfortable 6-1, 5-3 lead against Stephens, who was playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. But after failing to hold while serving for the match, squandering five match points in the process, Azarenka exited the court for a medical timeout while leading 5-4. Almost 10 minutes had passed before the defending champion returned to the court, and when she did she capitalised on some errors from her young opponent to take the match 6-1, 6-4.

“Well, you know, I had been struggling a little bit throughout the whole match, from the second set, [with] my back,” Azarenka said in her post-game press conference. “And it just kept getting worse. I should have, you know, called the trainer a little bit earlier before that when I got to the point that I couldn't really breathe and had to go off court. So there was a little bit of my bad. But just a rib got locked and kept getting worse. I had to have it adjusted. I really had to go and take that medical timeout.”

In the on-court TV interview after the game, Azarenka said she left the court because she felt “overwhelmed”.

"Well, I almost did the choke of the year,” Azarenka told the crowd inside Rod Laver Arena. “At 5-3, having so many chances I couldn't close it out. I just felt a little bit overwhelmed. I realised I'm one step away from the final and nerves got into me for sure."

After being grilled by the media as to why she didn’t explain her injuries in the on-court interview with Sam Smith, the Belarussian said it was a simple misunderstanding.

“You know what, I think I just really misunderstood what she asked me because the question was I had few difficulties and why I went off,” Azarenka explained. “I completely thought of a different thing, why I couldn't close out of match, you know, that I had few difficulties. So I understand the whole situation right now, but it just really simple misunderstanding of a question. I guess it was my bad.”

“[The timeout] was a necessary thing for me to do,” she added. “As I said earlier, I just regret that I didn't take it earlier. That it got to the point that it was pretty much impossible for me to breathe and to play.”

When asked if she felt that people give her too hard a time, Azarenka responded: “You know what, I feel like it had to be explained, the situation. I understand the point of people maybe not understanding what I said; me not understanding what I've been asked. So I'm just glad that I'm here, you know, to make everything clear, and that's it.”

Azarenka will be hoping to put the controversy behind her in time to face an in-form Li Na in the final on Saturday. The Chinese No.1 was in scintillating form as she blasted 21 winners past world No.2 Maria Sharapova, winning 6-2, 6-2.

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