Australian Open: At 34, Azarenka Says ‘Why Not Keep Going?’

Victoria Azarenka (photo: Tennis Australia/Josh Chadwick)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 22, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Victoria Azarenka is the sixth player in the Open Era to win 50 women’s singles matches at the Australian Open, after Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis. The 34-year-old, former No. 1 has won the Australian Open twice in her distinguished career, all the way back in 2012 and 2013, when she was in her early twenties.

While the 22nd-ranked Azarenka has the competitive desire to win another title Down Under, looking back at her past accomplishments, which includes 547 career victories and 21 WTA Tour singles titles, isn’t something she dwells upon.

“I don’t compare myself at all. I think from the outside people probably do that much more than I do it,” Azarenka said in her news conference after defeating No. 11 seed Jelena Ostapenko to reach the AO fourth round for the 11th time. “First of all, I would never want to go back 10 years ago. There’s just no way.

“I love who I am. I worked really hard to go through things in my life and to excel at them, mature, go through tough experience and learn from them, learn some wisdom. There’s no way I would want to be 22 or 23,” the native of Minsk, Belarus, who maintains residences in Monte Carlo, Monaco and Florida (United States), added.

“In terms of my game, I think that people really compare results rather than actual evolution of yourself and your game. I feel like I’ve definitely evolved as a player. The game itself evolved. You cannot really compare it as much.”

Azarenka has started the 2024 season on a positive note by going 6-2, including a semifinal finish at Brisbane earlier this month. In Melbourne, she scored wins over No. 53 Camila Giorgi of Italy, No. 96 Clara Tauson of Denmark and Ostapenko. Her earlier Melbourne triumphs advanced her to play 93rd-ranked qualifier Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine on Rod Laver Arena Monday. Unfortunately for Azarenka, Yastremska delivered her best performance in a major and beat the 18th-seeded Belarusian, 7-6 (6) 6-4.

“I only compare to myself who I was yesterday really,” Azarenka said. “I mean, sounds cliché. I think that perspective is really helps me to understand how I can improve, how I can get better. As long as I have that desire and that intention to learn, what is there to compare to?

“I feel like I’m still growing, I still feel like I’m fulfilling my potential. To me, once that stops, I will be like, You know what, we move on to something else.

“As long as I have that feeling, why not? Why not keep going?”

Yastremska masters Azarenka, Svitolina retires against Noskova

Qualifier Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, ranked 93rd, fought off two set points in the opening set, then came back from a break down in the second set and powered her way to a 7-6 (6), 6-4 upset of two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka on Rod Laver Arena Monday afternoon.

The 23-year-old Yastremska, 11 years younger than Azarenka, hit 38 winners to 37 unforced errors and converted five of 11 break points. She outpointed Azarenka 83-77 during the two-hour, seven-minute match.

“Not a good day for me playing-wise. I feel like, yeah, just wasn’t able to really connect my game fully,” Azarenka said in her post-match news conference. “I feel like I had a lot of opportunities still and just didn’t take advantage of them. Yeah, a bit of a disappointing day for sure.”

Yastremska has now won seven straight matches — three in qualifying and four in the main draw — to reach her first major quarterfinal.

“First quarterfinals, but to be honest, it’s not feeling like I’m in quarterfinals. I don’t know why,” Yastremska said in her news conference. “Has to be like so special but feels that I’ve just done, like, small part of what I had to do, what I have done before even, you know.

“So moving forward and looking forward for my next match.”

Meanwhile, Czech teenager Linda Noskova advanced to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal after No. 19 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine retired from their fourth-round match after only three games totaling 30 points and 23 minutes on Margaret Court Arena Monday afternoon.

The 23rd-ranked Svitolina, 29, took a medical timeout trailing 2-0 in the first set and received treatment on her back from a trainer trainer. Then, after Svitolina lost the next game to fall further behind at 3-0, she ended the match and shook Noskova’s hand, then left the court in tears.

“I got a spasm, or I don’t know exactly what it is, but like shooting pain in the first game, the last two points,” Svitolina explained in her news conference. “Yeah, couldn’t do anything. Completely locked my back. Just very sad, of course.”

Noskova said: “I was physically and mentally prepared for a match, so obviously a little sad it had to end this way, but I hope Elina gets well really soon.”

The 50th-ranked Noskova will meet Yastremska in the quarterfinals.

Around Melbourne Park

Monday’s Australian Open results

Tuesday’s Australian Open order of play

Looking ahead

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

“I’m the only player who’s wearing red dress. It’s not like I was – how to say – included in part of the process, preparing the color and everything, no. They just show me the dress I will play with, and I was super excited to wear the only red dress.

“But, I mean, I’m super happy. I feel so special. I really thank Nike that they give me this opportunity to feel special. But, of course, I want to have something more, like not just the different color.

“But it is how it is. I’m super happy to be special.”

– World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, during her Sunday post-match news conference, on her bespoke Nike red dress.