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"Time is a good medicine": Azarenka philosophical in defeat

  • Dan Imhoff

Victoria Azarenka’s dream of a first Australian Open final in a decade is over. While the disappointment is palpable, she expects time will offer a more balanced perspective.

At 33, the world No.24 knows opportunities such as these don’t come knocking as frequently as they once did at the peak of her powers when she was ranked world No.1.

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A 7-6(4) 6-3 defeat to reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina has only made her crave more, a reminder – if it was needed – that at her best she still had what it took.

“Time always is a good medicine I feel,” Azarenka said. “I don't really dwell too long on things.

“I feel like I'm in the state of mind where I can be a little bit more objective."

“I think what helps me now is not to take it, I did something bad or I'm this or that. I don't take it as personal.

“It's just a day that my game didn't win.”

Azarenka had not reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal since her run to the 2020 US Open final and that run came as a bolt from the blue.

Previously, she had not reached the last eight at a major since the 2016 Australian Open.

In her first Australian Open semifinal since the second of her two titles a decade ago, Azarenka was not without chances against a woman 10 years her junior.

An early break did not last, while her efforts to level from 3-5 down had the Rod Laver Arena crowd roaring for more.

A pivotal moment came during Rybakina’s improbable escape from 0-40 down at 5-all.

“Right now, especially, it's kind of hard to digest,” Azarenka said. “Obviously I had quite a few chances that I gave myself. Kind of not converting them right now is difficult.

Victoria Azarenka (Getty Images)

“[I] cannot really say I'm really proud of how I played… I'm proud of myself how I fought and I tried, but just was not, tennis-wise, I felt like just wasn't there, especially in the important moments when I kept creating those opportunities for me. Just couldn't convert them.

“[It's] not a great feeling right now to digest, but give me a couple hours and I can have probably a better outlook on this month in Australia. [I] look forward to, throughout the year, what I can do.”

The 33-year-old left Adelaide with consecutive losses in which she failed to put away Linda Noskova and Veronika Kudermetova.

The nature of those defeats could have seriously dented a former Grand Slam champion’s confidence heading into her 15th Australian Open campaign.

Incrementally though, she worked her way into contention.

Victory over fellow former Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin set the wheels in motion, while a first win over a top-three opponent since 2016, against good friend Jessica Pegula, were among the highlights.

Victoria Azarenka, Elena Rybakina (Getty Images)

While she hailed her vanquisher’s superior play, she was determined to move on.

A return to a Grand Slam final in 2023 was back on the cards.

“I think that helps my mindset to not dwell on things like that too much,” she said.

“On the other hand, it also motivates you. I want to go a step further and do better. Then take the lens, zoom out and see what I can do maybe better next time.”