A Band of Mothers March On At The US Open

Victoria Azarenka (photo: Brad Penner/USTA)

WASHINGTON, September 5, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

When the 2020 US Open began on Monday there were nine “mums” who began play in the women’s singles draw. By the end of the second round on Thursday, six of the nine – Kim Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva, Tatjana Maria, Olga Govortsova, Kateryna Bondarenko and Patricia Maria Tig – had been eliminated.

The three who remain heading into the middle weekend of the tournament – Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Tsvetana Pironkova – make up a formidable trio.

All of them are champions on and off the court.

“Pretty incredible, huh?” said Azarenka, ranked 27th, during her virtual press conference Thursday night after she upset fifth seed and fellow Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka to reach the third round.

After establishing herself early in her career and winning back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013, Azarenka gave birth to a son, Leo, whom is now four.

“Well, there is a lot that goes into it in terms of balancing, you know, a lot of things, and juggling two things.

“But identifying myself or other players just as mothers, I think that’s not the only thing that we are. I think we are part of, you know, being a mother, we are also tennis players. We are also women who have dreams and goals and passions.

“So that’s, I think, being a role as a mom. Everybody has their own priority, they have their own list of where they rank being a mother is, but we are not – it’s not just being a mother. Your life doesn’t stop.”

Since becoming a mother, Azarenka has been stretched in many directions – from a custody battle between herself and the boy’s father to overcoming injuries and also dealing with other personal issues. Only in the past two weeks has Azarenka shown the form that made her a Grand Slam champion twice.

Asked what’s she’s learned about becoming a parent, Azarenka said: “I think parenthood really kind of unites people where you have the same stories. Where, you know, I saw Olympia (daughter of Serena) with Alexis walking, and I asked her, ‘What is your favorite cartoon?’ And she said, ‘Paw Patrol.’ And my son is into Paw Patrol, so I had a little sticker and she knew what it is. Those little moments are really precious and they unite us, so it’s beautiful.

“My life just began when I became a mother. I’ll say that really openly.

“I think to see that rise of women being able to fulfill their dreams, as well as balancing the motherhood, I think they all are heroes. I really, really appreciate all of them. And I hope this continues to go on where women are inspired to do what they love to do but still being able to go after what they want.

“Because I think for the kids, and I hope for my son, really, it’s inspiring that I still want to do what I want to do, and I work really hard for that. I want to be the example to my son.

“I’m pretty sure that other ladies have that and share that same feeling as I do.”

Azarenka, who last weekend won the Western & Southern Open for her first singles title since Miami 2016, will play No. 53 Iga Swiatek of Poland in Saturday’s third round. Meanwhile, third seed Williams will face 2017 US Open champion and 26th seed Sloane Stephens, and Pironkova will oppose 18th seed Donna Vekic.

Osaka honors life of Ahmaud Arbery

During each of her matches at the 2020 US Open, fourth seed Naomi Osaka has been honoring the lives of slain Black Americans as a means of raising awareness for Black Lives Matter. On Monday, she wore a plain black mask with the name BREONNA TAYLOR, a slain Louisville emergency medical technician. On Wednesday, it was ELIJAH McCLAIN an Aurora, Colo., massage therapist, whom she honored. On Friday, it was AHMAUD ARBERY, who was fatally shot while jogging near Brunswick, Ga.

After Osaka won her third-round match Friday afternoon, defeating Marta Kostyuk, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2, she was asked during her virtual press conference about what responses she’s received that have meant to the most to her about her wearing masks to raise awareness of the tragic deaths of people of color.

I think the responses that meant the most to me are probably people saying thank you,” said Osaka, who brought seven masks to the US Open, one for each round it takes to win the title. “And for me, I don’t know, it always takes me by surprise because I don’t know if I feel like I’m doing anything. But people say thank you and I’m proud of you, and for me that’s something that’s really touching to my heart.”

Congratulations, Elina Svitolina

In benefit of WTA Charities global initiatives

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According to The New York Times, US Open employees are the only spectators in this strange pandemic year. Learn more in this great weekend read from “Spectators Are Not Allowed at the U.S. Open. Except These Lucky Few.” It’s written by Alyson Krueger.

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What they’re sharing on social media

A throwback to the Andre Agassi ‘90s?


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These throwback Agassi kits are giving us all the ‘90s feels 😍 #USOpen

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