The Tennis Space briefing: five things about Victoria Azarenka’s 26-match streak.
Who would have thought that Marion Bartoli would bring everything to a stop?
Bartoli is known for many things – for supposedly having a higher IQ than Einstein, for being a former Wimbledon finalist, for the quirkiness, for her occasionally strained relationship with her father and coach Walter, but not for being a momentum killer, not for being a player likely to reset Vika to zero.
Azarenka’s start to the season – the best since Martin Hingis opened 1997 with 37 wins in a row – had brought her 26 victories and four titles, including her first grand slam trophy at January’s Australian Open. It had also propelled her to number one in the rankings. Maria Sharapova had twice tried to beat Azarenka this season, and twice suffered lop-sided defeats, in the finals of the Australian Open and Indian Wells. Agnieszka Radwanska had been playing some of the best tennis of her life, but she has already lost four times to Azarenka this year.
But then along came Bartoli – who lost to Azarenka in the quarter-finals in Sydney in the first week of the year – and the streak ended in the quarter-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.
What’s going to happen with the T-shirts?
“You know, I’m a human, not a super woman,” Azarenka said after defeat to Bartoli, but if she had gone on to win the Miami tournament, would she have been tempted to have worn a blue T-shirt with a red ‘S’ on the front? While on her run, she has worn tops with the slogans, ‘Best is best’, ‘I got this’ and ‘Unstoppable skills’. Since they were always tongue in cheek – right? – why not keep his going?
Azarenka has made a promising start on the chat-show circuit (talking champagne and teddies).
One of her first acts after winning the Australian Open was to fly to the States for a filming of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Ellen asked: “I’m sure there was a little partying going on that night after you won, right?” Azarenka said: “There were a lot of champagne showers.” Ellen also presented Azarenka with a giant soft toy, her researchers having discovered that the world number one likes teddies.
Azarenka’s boyfriend has benefited.
Would Sergei Bubka Junior, who has a triple-digit ranking, have been given a wild card into a tour-level event in Dubai if his girlfriend hadn’t been slashing her way through the women’s tour?
There is much more to talk about now than the grunting.
The grunting debate hasn’t, ahem, gone quiet. But rewind to last season, or even to just before she played Sharapova in January’s Australian Open, and much was being made of the sounds she makes when she strikes the ball. She was Vika the Shrieka. Now, after winning the first 26 matches of her season, she’s Vika the Streaker. Let’s see what happens now, after her first defeat of the season.
Last season, Novak Djokovic was undefeated until he lost to Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open. Less than a month later, he was the Wimbledon champion for the first time. How Vika deals with this result will be instructive.