Victoria Azarenka, the defending champion, was facing accusations of gamesmanship here today after taking a lengthy medical time-out during her Australian Open semi-final victory over Sloane Stephens.
The world No 1 left the court for nine minutes after appearing to have a panic attack as she failed to take five match points when serving for the match at 6-1 and 5-3. When Azarenka returned she broke Stephens in the following game to secure her place in the final against Li Na, who had earlier beaten Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2.
When asked in an on-court interview after the match why she had gone off, Azarenka replied: “I almost did the choke of the year right now. At 5-3, having so many chances and I couldn't close it out. I was a bit overwhelmed realising I was one step away from the final. Nerves got into me, for sure.”
However, players must have valid medical reasons for taking a time-out. In a later press conference Azarenka said she had been suffering from a “locked rib” which was causing her breathing problems. She had not mentioned the injury in her on-court interview but insisted: “When you cannot breathe you start to panic. I was really panicking, not because I couldn't convert my match point.”
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