Azarenka beats Williams for the Indian Wells title amidst controversy
By Ros Satar – In Indian Wells
- Victoria Azarenka  def. Serena Williams  6-4 6-4
- Azarenka wins the title for the second time in her career
INDIAN WELLS, USA – Victoria Azarenka sealed her return to the World Top 10 with a straight sets win over Serena Williams at the BNP Paribas Open, in Indian Wells.
Perhaps the enormity of erasing 15 years of a painful history between her last win in the final amidst shameful controversy, and now was weighing heavy on her mind, as it was another slow start by the World No. 1.
Broken to love by a pumped Azarenka, it was an advantage she held on to, despite coming under pressure on her serve no less than five times in the opening set, with Williams struggling to break through.
When it came down to it through, Azarenka served out the first set just as she started, to love.
The frustration was racking up for Williams, broken again in the first game of the next set, and another four break points went begging for the American, before Azarenka broke her once more for a 3-0 lead. Consecutive racquet smashes – one on court, and a second with the poor offending implement still in its polythene wrapping earned her a point deduction at the start of the fourth game, as Azarenka served to love for a 4-0 lead.
Still there was hope, and sure enough Williams started a slow and gradual fight back, breaking Azarenka as she served for the set for the first time at 5-3, and holding two break points as the Belarusian tried once more to close it out, before she finally made good on her first match point.
There was high emotion from Williams as she stepped up to thank the fans, and after a heartfelt personal thanks from Azarenka to Williams for her hard work and dedication to the sport, she quipped to the fans that she knew they had been for Williams – she would have been cheering for her too if she was in the stands.
After the match Williams said: “I was definitely a little nervous. I did not expect to be, at all, like zero, and then when I walked out there I was like, Oh, man, I’m really nervous. Yeah, and really excited. Those emotions I had a little bit last year I was having again. Definitely did not expect that. But with that being said, you know, you can’t be nervous the whole match.
“I felt like the momentum was in my favor, but that’s one thing that Victoria is great at, fighting and never letting anything go too much of her opponent’s way, really taking control. I think that’s one thing she’s really, really unbelievable at. So she was able to do that again.”
For Azarenka, by her own admission – it was a ‘start’ as she begins to put behind her two troubled years of injury and doubt.
She said: “Feels good just to be able to see the work that I have put in and it’s paying off. But not just this year. Just everything that I have been through in the last years, it makes it more special. I just want to keep going. I just want to keep going. I want to keep improving myself as a player.
“I was very, I would say, brave to go for things that I haven’t maybe done as much before in the matches. I was more aggressive. I started to use my serve the way I wanted to use my serve. Sometimes it doesn’t work necessarily, like couple of matches this week. But having that big goal in mind and going after it, that’s something that makes the momentum shift on the big stages.”
It may not have been a classic end to a final that many anticipated would be a three-set humdinger, but it does give us back one of the few people on the tour who can take the battle to the World No. 1 – and win.
They say the tour is less with the indefinite absence of Maria Sharapova after the shock news of her drug suspension for the use of Meldonium. I would say the tour is better off for the return of Azarenka – back in the top 10 now with two title wins already.
This will come as a relief to those who have had to face her too early in a draw, and brings a level of competitiveness back to the top levels which makes the run for the next Slams very interesting indeed.
BNP Paribas Tournament Director Raymond Moore criticized for sexist remarks
After making some extremely bizarre comments at the breakfast session in the morning before the match, Tournament Director Raymond Moore took to the court to thank Serena and Venus Williams for their return, even though he had earlier accused the WTA of ‘hanging on the coattails of the men’ and claiming that ‘if I was a lady player, I’d go down on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.’
It left perhaps a sour taste in the mouths of fans reacting to the press conference quotes that he should present Williams with her award.
After the match she said: “Obviously I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that. I think Venus, myself, a number of players have been — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister, I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement. I think there is a lot of women out there who are more — are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.
“If you read the transcript you can only interpret it one way. I speak very good English. I’m sure he does, too. You know, there’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not — we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”
Azarenka was also asked her opinion on the quotes, humourously pointing out that every person on this earth was here because of a woman. But in her response to the Moore comments, she said:
“I think it’s something that, again, we have to work through as women. Men don’t get those comments. I don’t want to address or insult anybody like we got a little bit. But I have just spoken to [Moore] and he apologised.
“I think what women do best is rise above those comments. You don’t hear complaints or bad comments towards men. From my perspective, if we rise above that and keep working hard in everything we do, we’re better. We’re better at taking opportunities and being graceful. Why do you have to make the comment? Who cares? Who cares? Simple as that.
“I think that’s more important to focus on us. That’s what women players and examples like Venus and Serena and other players have been doing for — you know, we got it from Billie Jean King where she proved everybody, Hey, look at me. I started something, so let’s go after it. So I think it’s our duty to keep just working hard through whatever comments there is. We’ve got to rise above that.”
Shortly after a twitter storm arose around the comments, the tournament put out a hastily composed apology, via statement:
“At my morning breakfast with the media, I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous. I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologise to all the players and WTA as a while. We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA. Again I am truly sorry for my remarks.”
That he made the comment at all was inexcusable. Especially in light of a final men’s final that was over by the time the press were done with the women’s champion’s press conference.