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Victoria Azarenka: From a prolific junior to a controversial No. 1

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Feature 31 Jul 2013, 23:20 IST
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Australian Open 2012 - Women's Champion Photocall

Victoria Azarenka

“I’m a winner at heart and I want to (be) the best,” – Victoria Azarenka.

It is this sheer self-belief and staunch determination that made Victoria Azarenka who she is today. And it is because of this amazing grit and confidence, we observed the Belarusian’s wondrous journey to the top of the world from the forgettable days when she was a tempestuous teenager fighting her own demons.

Indomitable spirit, never-say-die attitude and a winner at heart have always been the standout qualities of Victoria Azarenka, who had a dazzling career as a junior and was much-talked about right from her teenage days on the circuit.

She left her native Minsk at the tender age of 16 to make Arizona her training base. She was the most prolific junior in the world in 2005 attaining the World No. 1 ranking and also capturing the Australian Open and the US Open.

Despite her blossoming singles career, Azarenka’s success came earlier in doubles. In 2007, at Flushing Meadows, she partnered her renowned countryman Max Mirnyi to Grand Slam glory. She followed it up with the mixed doubles trophy at Roland Garros the next year alongside Bob Bryan. 2008 was also the year which saw her going up as far as World No. 7 in doubles ranking. The Belarussian would go on to reach three more Grand Slam doubles finals and one more mixed doubles final only to fall at the last hurdles.

In spite of the early promise, the dimple-cheeked , exuberant girl faced some initial struggles to live up to her reputation in singles. Sometimes, it was a stressful fight with her own self to find out the answers to numerous questions swirling in her head.

Battling her inner demons, Victoria adorably called Vika, had failed to maintain the equilibrium and her tempers flared leaving her fans absolutely stunned and stupefied. Her seething rage had been branded abhorrent and needless to say, Vika’s popularity suffered.

Even her shrill grunts contributed to the disparaging remarks against her.

Fitness was also another demon that needed to be slain. One of the most remarkable such matches was when a tearful Azarenka had to retire following dizziness after leading Serena Williams in their fourth round encounter at the 2009 Australian Open.

Despite the dismay, she managed to clinch her most prestigious title till then at Miami, beating Serena Williams and becoming the sixth teenager in history to win the tournament.

2010 would prove to be the year that would pave the way for her stellar tennis career. Quite a torturous year it proved for the fledgling talent as it was marred with countless retirements and shocking losses. She could notch only seven Grand Slam wins the entire year.

When she briefly considered taking a break from the tormenting year to concentrate on her education, it was an inspiring talk with her grandmother which motivated Vika to continue playing.

It was a conversation that emboldened Vika, strengthened her and made her take the positives out of those failures in her journey forward.

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