October 25, 2010

The Power of Perseverance

Back in the spring I was astounded when Caroline Wozniacki got right back on court after a devastating fall in the Charleston semis and not only stayed entered in every event on her schedule, but made the quarterfinals in Paris.

A few months later Caro's good friend Victoria Azarenka suffered an even more frightening collapse on the tennis court when a combination of extreme heat and a possible mild concussion sent her out of the U.S. Open second round in a wheelchair. After previously having retired from four matches already this year, I have to admit, I again thought that would be the end of her season.

But all evidence to the contrary, Azarenka might just be tougher physically than she is mentally -- often one to vent her frustration when a match isn't going her way, she's been able to bounce back from injury and illness rather remarkably. One of my favorites to win the title in New York made the semis at her first tournament back in Tokyo and just yesterday took home her second title of the year in Moscow with a solid 6-3, 6-4 showing against her doubles partner Maria Kirilenko.

It was a great way to cap of a week that also saw Azarenka gain admission to the year-end Sony Ericsson championships which begins tomorrow -- her first round squeaker against Andrea Petkovic notched her enough points to take Serena Williams' place. It'll be her second consecutive appearance in Doha, and though she's ranked lower than she was last year she might actually have a better chance than in 2009 -- in the same group as Kim Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva and Jelena Jankovic, she's actually had decent results against her opponents in their recent match-ups. It's clearly the tougher round-robin group in Doha, but a couple good early results could yield some strong momentum for her.

Vika's victory in Moscow was important for another reason -- it was the first time she's been able to extend her win streak this late in the year, usually prospering in the late winter and early spring. Last year, for example, she only reached one quarterfinal after Wimbledon, and given her spotty stamina even before that fateful day in New York, it's nice to see her get back to being healthy at this point in the season.

In a year of ups and downs for Azarenka -- and more than a few scares -- maintaining form to win the Kremlin Cup and qualifying for the championships in Doha bodes well for this young talent. Sure she's still got a lot to learn but I wouldn't be surprised to see her make a dent in some Major draws next year.

After all, if she can bounce back from a such a defeat as she felt in New York, nothing should be able to stop her.

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