Victoria Azarenka: Victoria Azarenka was born on 31 July 1989.She is a Belarusian professional tennis player and the current World No. 1. She won the 2012 Australian Open singles title, becoming the first Belarusian player to win a Grand Slam in singles. Her other achievements include winning the Bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, two mixed doubles Grand Slam titles—the 2007 US Open with Max Mirnyi, the 2008 French Open with Bob Bryan—and the gold medal in the mixed doubles at the 2012 London Olympics with Max Mirnyi.
At age 16, Azarenka moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, United States, from Minsk, Belarus, to train. In this she was aided by National Hockey League goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and his wife, who is a friend of Azarenka’s mother. In 2010 she briefly considered a break from the sport of tennis to focus on education; however, after a conversation with her grandmother, she decided to continue playing. It is the inspiration from her grandmother that is regarded as the key for her continued developments in the sport. As of March 2012, Azarenka is romantically involved with fellow tennis player Sergei Bubka Jr, son of pole vaulter Sergey Bubka.
Azarenka debuted on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior tour in November 2003 in Israel, winning one doubles title with countrywoman Olga Govortsova. At Wimbledon, Azarenka reached the semi-finals of the girls’ competition, only to be defeated by eventual runner-up Ana Ivanovic by 1–6, 6–1, 10–12, despite having two match points in the marathon third set. She continued to participate in ITF tournaments in 2004, and at the end of the season she had a rank of 508 on WTA singles tour.
Azarenka had a successful year in 2005, winning two junior Grand Slams: the Australian (she would eventually win the seniors’ competition in 2012) and US championships. She ended the season as the junior world no. 1 and was named the 2005 World Champion by the ITF, becoming the first Belarusian to do so. In addition, she reached her first semifinal on the main tour in Guangzhou, China. She went from the qualifying draw of the tournament to the main draw, where she defeated Martina Suchá and Shuai Peng, before losing to the eventual champion Yan Zi.
Azarenka claimed her first title of the season at the 2012 Apia International Sydney as the third seed. She defeated her first three opponents, Stefanie Voegele, Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli all in straight sets to advance to the semifinals where she defeated the seventh seed, Agnieszka Radwańska in three sets 1–6, 6–3, 6–2 to reach the final, where she defeated the defending champion Li Na in three sets 6–2, 1–6, 6–3.
Azarenka competed at the 2012 Australian Open as the third seed, defeating Heather Watson, Casey Dellacqua, Mona Barthel and Iveta Benesova in the first four rounds without dropping a set, losing just 10 games and winning 48. In the quarterfinals, Azarenka faced a sterner test against world no. 8 Agnieszka Radwańska, and lost the opening set on a tie-break before coming back strongly, losing just two further games en route to a 6–7, 6–0, 6–2 win.In the semi-finals, she defeated the eleventh seed and defending champion Kim Clijsters 6–4, 1–6, 6–3 to reach her first Grand Slam singles final where she faced the world no. 4 Maria Sharapova, who’d defeated 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová in the other semifinal. In a nervous start to the final, Azarenka lost the opening two games of the match, and was within two points of trailing 0–3 after Sharapova took the first two points of the third game. Azarenka came back to hold serve, however, and took the next two games to establish a 3–2 lead, before her opponent held serve to level the score at 3–3. This would prove to be Sharapova’s last service hold in the match, as Azarenka then proceeded to win all of the next nine games, to record an emphatic 6–3, 6–0 victory. Unusually, due to the earlier quarter-final defeat of Caroline Wozniacki by Clijsters in the same tournament, whichever of the finalists triumphed in Melbourne would gain sufficient points to replace Wozniacki at the top of the Women’s rankings. Azarenka thus recorded her first Grand Slam singles title and became the world no. 1 (with effect from 30 January 2012) in the same match.
Her first tournament as world number one was the 2012 Qatar Total Open. After receiving a bye in the first round, she played German Mona Barthel, dropping just one game in a comprehensive 6–1 6–0 victory. She won her third title of the year in Doha, defeating Barthel, Simona Halep, Yanina Wickmayer, Agnieszka Radwanska and Samantha Stosur all in straight sets. Azarenka planned to compete at the 2012 Dubai Tennis Championships. However, after a bye in the first round, she withdrew from the tournament due to an ankle injury.
In March, she played in the 2012 BNP Paribas Open, where she was the top seed. After receiving a bye in the first round, she defeated Mona Barthel in a tough three set match. In the next four rounds, she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, Julia Gorges, Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber easily in straight sets, dropping just 16 games. In a re-run of the 2012 Australian Open decider, her opponent in the final was World No. 2 Maria Sharapova, and once again, Azarenka won in straight sets, this time by 6–2 6–3, thus extending her undefeated record in 2012 to 23–0. Azarenka´s next tournament was the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open, where after a bye in the first round, she went to defeat Michaella Krajicek 6–3 7–5 in the second round, Heather Watson 6–0 6–2 on the third round, next round she faced a harder test against Dominika Cibulkova, losing the first set and being 4–0 down on the second set, Azarenka managed to came back and pull out the match, with a final score of 1–6, 7–6(7), 7–5. In the next round she faced Marion Bartoli, who ended Azarenka’s 26 match winning streak to start the 2012 season (3–6, 3–6).
In April, she competed at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. She received a bye into the second round against Andrea Petkovic, however Petkovic was forced to retire in the second set after suffering an ankle injury during the match, ending it 6–4, 4–4 to Azarenka. Azarenka then faced a tough match from Mona Barthel in the quarter finals but winning in 3 sets 6–4, 6–7, 7–5. She then faced Agnieszka Radwanska in the semi finals and winning comfortably in straight sets 6–1, 6–3. This win meant she had beaten Radwanska in all 5 matches against her this year. Azarenka would then face World No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the final, creating another top 2 seeded final. Sharapova was able to beat Azarenka comfortably in the final in straight sets 6–1, 6–4.
Azarenka won an Olympic bronze medal during the 2012 Summer Olympics. She and Max Mirnyi also won the mixed doubles gold beating Britain’s Laura Robson and Andy Murray Azarenka then competed at the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open. After the first 2 rounds, she faced Ana Ivanovic and won the match 6–4, 6–4. She then faced a tricky challenge from World No. 8 Li Na in the quarter finals but eventually winning in 3 sets 3–6, 6–3, 6–3. In the semi finals she faced yet again Agnieszka Radwanska and was able to win comfortably in straight sets 6–2, 6–4 and in doing so, extending her winning streak to 6 games in a row over Radwanska. In the finals the pressure was on for Azarenka, as Serena Williams was looking very impressive throughout the tournament and would face Azarenka in the finals. This was the first meeting since the 2011 US Open match they had in which Williams won. Azarenka was beaten easily in the final by Williams 6–1, 6–3. The result gave Azarenka only her 3rd defeat of the year. Azarenka’s next tournament was the 2012 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, she advanced to the third round quite easily but then with drew from the tournament and avoided a third round clash with Dominika Cibulkova, due to a right shoulder strain.
In the 2012 French Open, she defeated Alberta Brianti, Dinah Pfizenmaier and Alexandra Wozniak respectively to qualify for the fourth round. However, in the fourth round, she lost in straight sets, 2–6, 6–7, against Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. As a result, she lost her World No. 1 ranking to eventual Roland Garros champion Maria Sharapova.
Azarenka then competed at Wimbledon, winning her first four matches in straight sets. She then defeated Tamira Paszek in the quarter finals, also in straight sets, before losing to Serena Williams for the 6th straight time in the semi-final, 3–6, 6–7 bringing their head-to-head 8–1 in Serena’s favour.
Later in the month, Azarenka took part in the 2012 Summer Olympics tennis event, held at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London. She entered two events, playing in both the women’s singles, and the mixed doubles alongside ATP doubles World No. 1 Max Mirnyi. In singles, Azarenka won her first four matches before falling in the semifinals, losing for the third time of the season and the ninth time overall to eventual Gold Medallist Serena Williams in a match dominated by the American, in what is Azarenka’s heaviest defeat this year. Azarenka rebounded by winning the Bronze Medal match over Russian Maria Kirilenko in straight sets, earning the first ever olympic medal in tennis for Belarus. Azarenka got her first Gold medal in the 2012 Olympic games on 5 August 2012 with Max Mirnyi for Belarus, defeating Andy Murray and Laura Robson of Great Britain.The match was a close one with the first set 2–6 by Great Britain, followed by a set won by Belarus, 6–3. The match tie-break ended 10–8, with Belarus winning on their second match point.
Azarenka retired from her 2012 Rogers Cup second round match to Tamira Paszek at 3–3, and then withdrew from Cincinnati.
Azarenka reached the quarter-finals for the first time at the 2012 US Open, winning her first four matches in straight sets for the loss of only ten games. There, she faced defending champion Samantha Stosur and eliminated her from the tournament in a two-and-a-half three-set thriller which was decided by a final-set tiebreak. This victory will ensure Azarenka retains the World No. 1 ranking after the tournament, regardless of how further she progresses. Azarenka then faced former US Open champion and World No. 3 Maria Sharapova in the semifinal, in what was arguably the best match between the two. Azarenka was able to come through the match after being a set down to win 3–6, 6–2, 6–4. Azarenka reached her first US Open final, where she faced former US Open champion and World No. 4 Serena Williams, losing for the eighth consecutive time 2–6, 6–2, 5–7 despite having had a 5–3 lead in the final set and serving for the match at 5–4. Following her loss, Azarenka was applauded by many in the tennis community for the honesty and gratitude she demonstrated during the trophy ceremony as well as her press-conference afterwards.
It was announced on 6 September that Azarenka has qualified for the season-ending WTA Tour Championships for the fourth consecutive year.
In mid-September, Azarenka played an exhibition match against Dominika Cibulková in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, winning the match 6–2, 6–3.
Azarenka then played at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she received a bye into the second round, she defeated Tamira Paszek and Roberta Vinci en route to the quarter finals where she retired from the tournament due to dizziness and avoided a match against Angelique Kerber. She then played the China Open, defeating Alize Cornet, Sabine Lisicki, & Elena Vesnina en route to the quarter finals and without dropping a set. In the quarter final she defeated Romina Oprandivery easily 6–2, 6–0. She then faced Marion Bartoli in the Semifinals and had lost in the last meeting, she defeated Bartoli 6–4, 6–2. The finals was set for another top 2 seeded match as it was Azarenka facing World No.2 Maria Sharapova for the 5th time of the year. In a match that was nothing like their US Open meeting, Azarenka was able to win the match comfortably, 6–3, 6–1. The win gave Azarenka her 2nd Premier Mandatory title of the year and 5th of the year.
Azarenka then played at the Generali Ladies Linz, where she advanced to the semi-finals without dropping a set and only dropping 8 games. In the semis she faced Irina-Camelia Begu, also winning easily 6–2, 6–1. In the finals she faced Germany’s Julia Goerges and won the match 6–3, 6–4, giving Azarenka her 6th title of the year, the equal most by any player in a single season since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.
Azarenka’s final tournament of the year was the WTA Tour Championships where she was drawn in the red group along with World No.3 Serena Williams, World No.5 Angelique Kerber and World No.8 Li Na. In her first Round Robin match she faced Kerber and almost lost by saving 2 match points to eventually win the match, 6–7, 7–6, 6–4. Azarenka was subsequently beaten by Serena Williams 6–4 6–4 despite leading 3–0 with a double break in the second set. In her final round robin match, she beat Li Na 7–6(3) 6–3, ensuring her Year-End No.1 ranking. As the runner-up of her group, Azarenka faced White Group winner Maria Sharapova in the semifinals losing 6–4 6–2.
Azarenka set a new record for single-season prize money in 2012, earning $7.9 million. She also finished the season with a 69–10 win-loss record, losing five of those matches to Serena Williams, two to Maria Sharapova, one to Marion Bartoli, one to Dominika Cibulkova and the remaining loss coming on a retirement.
Her official website: http://www.vikaazarenkatennis.com/
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