Istanbul Profile: Victoria Azarenka
Published October 20, 2013 12:01
Highlights: Australian Open, Doha, Cincinnati (champion), US Open, Rome, Carlsbad (runner-up)
Grand Slam Performance: Australian Open (champion), French Open (semifinal), Wimbledon (second round) US Open (runner-up)
Win/Loss Record: 42-7
Record Against Top 10: 8-3
WTA Championships History: runner-up (2011), semifinalist (2012), round robin (2010, 2009)
Successfully following up a season like the one Victoria Azarenka enjoyed in 2012 was never going to be easy. But the Belarusian has done just that in 2013, overcoming a few bumps along the way to well and truly consolidate her place at the top of women's tennis.
After her brilliant start to last year, Azarenka arrived in Australia with high hopes and even higher expectations. And she did not disappoint, defending her Australian Open with a dramatic victory over Li Na in the final.
Just as it had 12 months earlier, victory Down Under provided the launch pad for a memorable start to the season. Another title came in Doha, where Azarenka inflicted a rare defeat on rival Serena Williams, and it was not until early May, in her 19th match of the year, that she finally tasted defeat, succumbing to Ekaterina Makarova in Madrid.
Remarkably, after this early dominance, it would be six months before Azarenka got her hands on any more silverware, as she suffered a succession of near misses and fitness issues throughout the clay, grass and North American hardcourt swings.
A runner-up finish on the clay of Rome was followed by a semifinal loss to Maria Sharapova at the French Open, while a knee injury during her first match at the All-England Club scuppered any hopes of a maiden Wimbledon crown.
Azarenka warmed up for the year's final major, the US Open, with good showings in Carlsbad and Cincinnati, winning the title at the latter of these and scoring a confidence-boosting win over Williams for good measure.
Williams and Azarenka's paths crossed again in New York where they produced yet another classic; Azarenka showing courage, determination and no little skill to win an epic second set tie-break only to run out of gas in the decider.
However, despite coming out on the wrong end of the 75 67(6) 61 scoreline, Azarenka left New York with renewed belief and her reputation enhanced and arrives in Istanbul for her fifth appearance at the year-end championships hungry to go one better than 2011's runner-up finish.
"I'm super excited to have qualified for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships," Azarenka said. "Making the Championships is one of my goals every year and it really shows your consistency through the season. We have so much fun in Istanbul; it's one of the best events and a beautiful facility. I'm looking forward to seeing all the fans, the excitement and energy they bring is just amazing."