Victoria Azarenka likely to receive frosty reception at women's Australian Open final against Li Na

 

For all their winner-takes-all approach to sport, the public here have a high respect for fair play and sportsmanship, which is likely to ensure that Victoria Azarenka is given a frosty reception when the defending champion takes on Li Na in tomorrow’s final of the Australian Open.

While Li is a favourite with the Melbourne public, courtesy of her smiling demeanour and flow of jokes at the expense of her apparently hen-pecked husband, Azarenka drew their opprobrium with her controversial medical time-out towards the end of her semi-final victory yesterday over Sloane Stephens.

Azarenka left the court after failing to serve out for the match and returned some 10 minutes later before breaking Stephens’ serve to secure victory. The convention is that players should not take time-outs before their opponent is about to serve.

Having told one post-match interviewer that she had been “a bit overwhelmed” and another that she had been suffering a “panic attack”, Azarenka later claimed that she had left the court because she had been having trouble breathing because of a “locked rib”.

The cynics, who believe players often take time-outs for tactical rather than medical reasons, pointed out that Azarenka had called for the trainer after blowing five match points.  The episode prompted renewed calls for a change to the rules, which allow players to take a three-minute time-out for a “treatable medical condition” once their condition has been assessed.

Azarenka, who claimed that she had misunderstood the question when she made her initial post-match comments, went on television today to defend herself. “I was really freaked out by what was happening to me because I couldn't absolutely breathe and I had to go off court,” she told Channel 7. “I was advised by the doctors to take off court because it was high up my chest and the ribs so we had to go off.”

However David Nainkin, Stephens' coach, told “USA Today” that what had happened was "unfair". He accused Azarenka of “cheating within the rules” and added: “It was unsportsmanlike. I don't think you should be able to leave the court before the opponent serves for 10 minutes for whatever reason. You'd better have something pretty good. I think there's a grey area in the rule book that shouldn't be allowed.”

Critics have not been slow to join the debate.  Pam Shriver, the former world No 2, talked about “this injury charade of 10 minutes”, while Patrick McEnroe called the episode a “travesty”. Melbourne’s “Herald Sun” newspaper was running an opinion poll today, asking the public to vote on whether Azarenka had cheated, alongside a feature on “the world’s worst sporting cheats”.

Li refused to be drawn into the controversy at her pre-final press conference this afternoon, saying she had not seen the incident and therefore could not comment on it.

As for tomorrow’s match, Li hinted that Azarenka might be less of a threat than Maria Sharapova had been in the semi-finals, despite the fact that she has lost her last four meetings with the Belarusian.

“I think Maria was even more powerful than Azarenka,” Li said.  “She is very good at chasing balls to the side. She never gives up and is so strong in the mind. Azarenka is as well.  She has a little bit less power, but she likes to put the ball from corner to corner, to make her opponent run over the whole court.”

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone