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Onwards to the fourth chapter of the Azarenka-Radwanska drama

822   //    14 Mar 2012, 11:47 IST

Is there boiling anger beneath that hug?

Ever since making the headlines for winning her first Slam at the Australian Open last January, Victoria Azarenka has been constantly finding herself embroiled in controversy. Yet to lose a match, her season seemed sparkling clean and blemish-free until Agnieszka Radwanska took it upon herself to launch more than a few disparaging remarks that threatened to mire the Belarussian’s name.

First the grunt, then the sportsmanship – Azarenka has found that smart tennis is just not enough to please everyone, especially someone for whom she has been a thorn all season.

Strangely enough it is the World No. 5 Pole who shares the most number of wins this season with the World No. 1 Belarussian. The year is still in its infancy and both of them have already ascended to their best rankings ever, the only difference being that Radwanska’s 20 wins so far have come at the expense of three losses.

And yes, you guessed it right; all those 3 losses have come at the hands of the thorn – Azarenka. So it’s not surprising that Radwanska harbors a grudge. Shortly after her three-set loss at the Australian Open quarterfinal, Radwanska zeroed in on one of the favourite topics of controversy in women’s tennis in recent times – the ear-splitting shrieks.

The subject has been tossed and turned from Martina Navratilova to Caroline Wozniacki with the young Dane even accusing grunters of indulging in the act on purpose. Naturally Azarenka’s owl-like hoot and Maria Sharapova’s shrill screams have been a bone of contention for quite some time.

Following her Aussie Open exit, the Pole not only announced her displeasure about grunting vehemently but went a step further by saying that the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) would receive her whole-hearted encouragement if they wanted to establish rules against excessive grunting. Clearly Radwanska was miffed.

The seething rivalry then reached its crescendo at the semi-finals of the Qatar Total Open in Doha. The top seed apparently injured her left ankle mid-match and forced play to be halted for treatment, and yet succeeded in returning to the court and outgunning her opponent in straight sets. It did not go down well with her opponent and the Pole’s pent-up anger burst forth.

She stomped off the court after a peremptory handshake and avoided all eye contact with the in-form Belarussian. After the match, Radwanska accused Azarenka of exaggerating her injury and tarnishing the image of women’s tennis. The fact that Azarenka was forced to pull out from the Dubai Duty Free Championships the very next week due to the persistent problem had no bearing on her. She maintained her scathing attack that Azarenka’s behaviour was not good for the image of the game and that her actions had caused her (Radwanska) to lose respect for the World No.1.

Interestingly, the jovial and affable Belarussian and the calm and relaxed Pole come from the same group of talented youngsters that also includes Caroline Wozniacki. They may not be the best of chums but each of them considers the Dane a very good pal. But the Dane too had made it clear that she will not act as a mediator to break the ice between the two.

After Radwanska shunned any kind of communication with the Belarussian following the incident, Azarenka took the initiative of easing out matters. She publicly wished Radwanska on her birthday on Facebook – certainly a sign of immense maturity.

And perhaps maturity is what has helped her to sail through the entire drama, unperturbed. Despite the unwanted remarks, Azarenka remained composed and underlined that the World No. 5 was still a friend. Her latest attempt at reuniting with her estranged friend reiterates how Azarenka has evolved into a mature, sensible individual, which perhaps has been one of the reasons for her stupendous success this year.

From a tempestuous and puerile tennis player to a focused and unagitated tennis champion – Azarenka has come a long way. And her strong play at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California has been rewarded with a fourth face-off with Radwanska this season.

Needless to say, even though they have both been in fine form throughout the tournament, tennis will not be the only talking point this time!

A freelance journalist based in Kolkata who is a diehard Rafael Nadal fan. She is also extremely passionate about India’s progress in sports and hopes to throw light on India’s unsung sports heroes through her articles. When not screaming her lungs out in support of her favourite sports stars, she can be seen reading, watching movies or immersed in planning her next travel destination!
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