Azarenka under fire for 'unsportsmanlike' medical time out

AFP, Yahoo!7 Updated January 24, 2013, 9:36 pm

Victoria Azarenka defended herself against a storm of criticism Thursday after she took a medical time out at a crucial stage of her Australian Open semi-final defeat of teenager Sloane Stephens.

Azarenka's surge into the final against China's Li Na was overshadowed by a controversial 10-minute break when she left Rod Laver Arena for treatment on a rib complaint that was giving her back pain and breathing difficulties.

When she left the court, Azarenka had just blown five match points, and America's Stephens, 19, was left waiting to serve to stay in it. When Azarenka returned, she broke the teenager to win 6-1, 6-4 in 1hr 41min.

Immediately after the match, Azarenka said she had avoided "the choke of the year" and "felt a bit overwhelmed", sparking suspicions she had called for the time out to gather her thoughts.

Azarenka was accused of gamesmanship by respected commentator Pam Shriver and her colleague at ESPN, Patrick McEnroe, called it an "absolute travesty" on Twitter. But the 23-year-old maintained the injury was legitimate.

"I had been struggling a little bit throughout the whole match, from the second set with my back," she said."And it just kept getting worse. I should have called the trainer a little bit earlier, before I got to the point that I couldn't really breathe and had to go off the court."So there was a little bit of, my bad. But a rib got locked and kept getting worse. I had to have it adjusted. I really had to go and have that medical time out."She added: "It was a necessary thing for me to do. I just regret that I didn't take it earlier, that it got to the point that it was pretty much impossible for me to breathe and to play."Stephens, who was playing her first Grand Slam final and shares an agent with Azarenka, refused to criticise the Belarusian."If it was one of my friends, I would say, 'Oh my God, that sounds like a P-P', which is a personal problem," Stephens said."Other than that, it's just unfortunate. I did lose the next game but I wouldn't say the medical time out is why I lost the next game."Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told 7 in an exclusive that, on the evidence on the doctor who treated Azarenka and the trainer who treated her, that everything was above board."Certainly when these things happen and the trainers are called to the court the referee and myself we have a conversation," he said."In this instance the doctor confirmed he did treat the rib, he did treat the knee and once he made that assessment she was able and ready to continue play."Former players raced to Twitter to air their thoughts, with many calling Azarenka's actions not in the spirit of the game.But Tiley said the only person's opinion that really mattered was Stephens."We really have to ask Sloane Stephens... what she felt and how it affected her as a person, but everything was in the rules of the game and Sloane did make a comment that she [Azarenka] was able to continue on," he said.However, the incident is likely to raise questions about possible manipulation of time outs, which are used to treat injuries in the middle of a match.Azarenka said her initial comments, given in an on-court interview, had simply been misunderstood. And she insisted the reason for the time out was genuine."Honestly, I cannot say about anybody else," Azarenka said. "I can only speak about myself. I'm being really honest here, what I'm talking about. When I play and somebody takes a medical time out, I don't doubt them."

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103 Comments

  1. Oliver D03:16am Saturday 26th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    C'mon Melbourne, here is your chance to shine. Boo Azarenka and loud, bring that cheat to her knees, make her cry, and deny her winning prize money.

    Reply
  2. Ivor02:53pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    it amazes me,the umpire calls quiet please before the players start the sets,because the noise puts off the players.but allows her to scream even before she strikes the ball,surely that screaming is off putting to her opponents.so why does,nt the umpire tell her silence please?

    Reply
  3. paulski02:38pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    To be honest, only Azarenka would know if she had a legitimate injury or not. For all we know, it was just unfortunate timing. But if she did call the time-out for tactical reasons, she's a cheating cow and should have the book thrown at her.

    Reply
  4. Ivor02:17pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    ben r,you are the one who is the ignorent pig,the shemales opponent was a polite american young teenager.NOT as you call her a nig,as you also insult the chinese girl Li Na..before you make insulting remarks about other races,look into your own heritage.probably find you come from ape blood.

    Reply
  5. ChrisO02:00pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Just wonder what if this was a marathon race. Everyone freeze while someone has a time out? First you have 2 serves, the second to correct a mistake if you cannot make the first serve. Now you have time out for someone to take a deep breath (and perhaps have some stimulant). What about the other person?

    Reply
  6. Tam01:58pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    just 4 money,that all....not fair.

    Reply
  7. Karly01:52pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    If she spent less time making her pathetic moaning noise each time she comes into contact with the ball she might play better. Who wants to listen to that, complete turn off watching the womens tennis !!!!

    Reply
  8. Wiliam Isaacson01:37pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    I beleive Victoria was using Gamesman ship,Victoria obviously lost the plot,went off court to alter Stephens momentom,which paid off to Stephens detriment. The rule should be " On court treatment only with referee in attendance" If player cannot continue they forfeit. Time for organisers to get tough,a precedent already set .Im losing I have a tummy ache go off have a rest recompose, Suckers Adimistration Referee chair umpire.Player on a winning streak. Good luck.

    Reply
  9. Dieter01:37pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Who gives a Ratsarse stop watching the #$%$

    Reply
  10. Pauline01:33pm Friday 25th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Azarenka's defence, "When I play and somebody takes a medical time out, I don't doubt them." contradicts her sarcastic remarks which she made against her opponent Makarova who took time out because of a bad back. In her scathing retort to the court reporter post match, Azarenka said she wished she had Makarova's back! Azarenka's behaviour is worth some scrutiny mainly as she can't remember what she says from one day, no one match to the next and whatever is in between to the press. On court she uses her vocal cords far too much. Off court she should keep track of past verbal diarrhoea to the press and respect the people who pay to see her play tennis and fill her bulging bank account. Stephen may have lost the battle but she won the war with poise, sportsmanship, and mute fair play

    Reply
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