Vika & Maria's Brilliant Babooshkas
Published February 06, 2014 12:12
Victoria Azarenka has scaled the top of the WTA rankings, won two majors and countless other titles, but despite all this she has never lost sight of the bigger picture.
Like so many other players, Azarenka owes a debt of gratitude to her family and, in particular, her grandmother.
Not long before capturing her first Grand Slam, at the 2012 Australian Open, Azarenka had seriously contemplated taking a break from the game, only to be talked out of it during a heart-to-heart with her grandmother.
The relationship remains as strong as ever, even if Azarenka's globe-trotting lifestyle dictates that the two cannot see each other as often as they would.
"I don't know how to describe that love that I have for this woman," Azarenka said. "She's just so happy all the time. It's incredible.
"She came to see me in L.A. for the first time. She never travels anywhere and I said, 'Well, if you're going to fly somewhere, why don't you make it a long trip?'
"She was really happy to be there. She loved the weather. The first thing she was so impressed by is the beef they had, the steaks and stuff. She was like, 'Oh, my God, it's the most amazing steaks on the planet.'"
And Azarenka is not alone in remaining close to her far-flung relatives.
Maria Sharapova may have left her home in Sochi in search of tennis fame and fortune at just seven, but she has never forgotten her Russian heritage, particularly the perks of an Eastern European grandmother.
"Who doesn't like their grandmother?" Sharapova said. "I mean, they cook, they clean, they tell you you're the best. What's not to like?"
Unlike Azarenka's grandmother, Sharapova's is a frequent - if somewhat reluctant - visitor, although she is not willing to embrace all aspects of her granddaughter's adopted homeland.
"I know they are a little lazy. No, seriously, I have great grandmothers," Sharapova added. "One of them lives in Belarus and one still is in Russia. My mom's mother comes to the United States quite a bit. Like once a year I try to force her to come, but my grandfather is usually not very happy about that!
"I think you have a lot of memories from your childhood growing up, and she's the one that raised my mother and you see so many similarities. I love spending time with both of them."