Defending champ Azarenka booed at Australian Open

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Associated Press

Posted on January 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 22 at 5:32 AM

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Victoria Azarenka's tumultuous reign as the Australian Open's two-time champion ended Wednesday with a lot of shouting from her and some boos from the crowd.

Australian fans love their champions but dislike bad sportsmanship, and Azarenka has not been able to shake the notion that she committed the sin a year ago with a questionably timed medical timeout.

In 2013, the crowd booed Azarenka for taking what many considered to be a strategic, rather than an injury, timeout late in her semifinal against Sloane Stephens. They booed again Wednesday when she swatted a ball in frustration late in her quarterfinal loss to Agnieszka Radwanska.

The No. 2-seeded Azarenka vented her frustration throughout the match by screaming at errors, smacking her thigh and her racket and even slapping the court. It was a public unraveling on Rod Laver Arena, the same spot where the 22-year-old Belarussian became a two-time Grand Slam winner and achieved her career highlights.

The mood carried over into her post-match news conference, where Azarenka was asked about getting angry on the court.

"What?" Azarenka shot back. "She didn't make me angry."

Another question was about the message written in big letters on her T-shirt: "Just Deal With It."

Was that her attitude for moving past the loss?

"No. It's just a shirt."

Asked how long it takes to get over a loss like this, which ends her 18-match winning streak at Melbourne Park, she said: "I'll be fine tomorrow."

The performance offered a flashback to a younger Azarenka, who was more prone to public outbursts. One of the standouts was her fourth-round meltdown while playing Nadia Petrova at Wimbledon in 2009 in which she mimicked her own movements before sarcastically shaking a linesperson's hand and telling the chair umpire, "You guys have so much power to ruin the whole match."

Since then Azarenka has matured and has worked on staying focused. She has said her coach, Sam Sumyk, has been a cornerstone to her development.

When she's in form, Azaraneka controls the match, setting the rhythm of shots and dictating from the baseline. But she never got into her game Wednesday, going down in a flurry of unforced errors — 47 in total. In contrast, Radwanska was a vision of calm, playing smart tennis with finesse and instinctively anticipating Azareneka's shots.

"I'm not happy with what I did today," Azarenka said. "I think there was just too many mistakes, and too many easy mistakes on important moments."

Azarenka is the first to acknowledge that she can still cause herself problems — particularly when she loses focus.

"She was just doing everything a little bit better than me," Azarenka said, during a moment of introspection. "I was just watching. I was like a spectator a little bit."

She described her state of mind as "in the clouds" as she watched "the opponent play amazing."

"What I have to think about is what I have to do better next time," Azarenka said. "I know that I can play better, so I guess there's some positive in there."

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