“Makes Me Wanna Push Even More”: Victoria Azarenka Opens Up on Challenges Posed by Naomi Osaka and Others

Published 01/14/2021, 7:00 AM EST
Tennis – WTA Premier 5 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka in action during her quarter final against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza |REUTERS


Two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka has opened up on the challenge she faces from the younger crop going into the new tennis season.

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During an interview with a Chinese sports network, the 31-year-old Belarussian was asked how big the challenge was, facing the younger generation of women’s stars, especially 23-year-old Naomi Osaka and 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, who became the first from Poland to win a Grand Slam title.

Azarenka says her experience will come in handy against younger players

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Azarenka said she’s confident that her game is in a good space at the moment and all the experience that she has picked up in all of her years on the women’s Tour should stand her in good stead when it comes to facing young challengers.

Currently at 13th in the WTA singles rankings, the Belarussian said that she, too, was raw when she broke into the circuit but got better at her tennis as she picked up more experience on Tour.

“I feel like I’m in the best position in my career now, having (all) those experience(s) and living through certain things where I know how to handle myself better. For example, when I was younger, I was just learning and, kind of, stepping on my mistakes and then going through them. So I think you can look at it from both ways,” Azarenka said.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 10: Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates a point in her quarter final match against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands during day five of the 2020 Brisbane International at Pat Rafter Arena on January 10, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“They are bringing a lot more physicality”: Victoria Azarenka

Azarenka added that while the game itself has evolved, young players bring that element of physicality, often making them daunting to face.

“In terms of young players, I think they are bringing a lot more physicality, which (is) part of what we started with our generation and a generation a little bit before us. I wouldn’t say much more but that physicality of people being a lot more powerful, faster, balls are stronger, the courts are, you know, equipment and everything,” she said.

“Appreciate that kind of competition”: Vika on facing young stars

Azarenka added that she is excited to see a good many young players coming through, as it only makes the experience of viewing the game more enjoyable. She said:

“So that is something I always feel like you have to be aware of, elevating your level but in terms of, you know, just young players, as I said, I think you can look for it from different perspective but what is exciting for me is to see fresh faces and big personalities coming in Tour because that’s what make it exciting for spectators as well (as) for players.”

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“I always feel like when I have competition, when somebody’s pushing the limit, that’s what makes me wanna push even more. So I appreciate that type of competition,” said Vika, as she is nicknamed.

The Belarussian will be eyeing her third Grand Slam title as she heads to the Australian Open. She lost to Osaka in the final of the US Open last year.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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