Victoria Azarenka took controversial medical timeout because she got nervous
Victoria Azarenka beat Sloane Stephens in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Thursday in Melbourne, but she used some highly questionable tactics in the process.
Azarenka blew five match points while she was serving up 5-3 in the second set against Stephens. During the side change, Azarenka called the trainer and doctor over and pointed at her chest a few times. Not only was she treated, but she even left the court and didn’t return until several minutes later. Stephens, who had just broken serve and had some momentum, was forced to sit and wait until Azarenka was ready to continue.
Stephens was wearing Azarenka down, fought off five match points, and outlasted Azarenka in a game that took over 12 minutes. But Azarenaka’s timeout allowed her to recover and refocus, and she broke Stephens to win the match 6-1, 6-4.
When asked after the match about her medical problems, Azarenka said she took the break because she was overcome by nerves and nearly had a panic attack.
“I almost did the choke of the year,” Azarenka said. “At 5-3, having so many chances, [I] couldn’t close it out. I’m glad I could turn it around. I just felt a little bit overwhelmed realizing that I’m one step away from the final. Nerves got into me for sure.”
Azarenka was asked if she was happy with her performance.
“Until 5-3, yes, very happy. After that it wasn’t my best, but it’s important to overcome this little bit of a struggle and finish the match. Definitely happy to be back in the final. I just couldn’t lose. I was so upset.”
Azarenka elaborated on her medical issues during an interview with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi.
“I couldn’t breathe. I had chest pains [like I] was getting a heart attack or something. I just needed to make sure it was OK because I really couldn’t breathe.”
The Belarusian was made aware that her medical timeout was suspicious. She defended herself and said the only mistake she made was not calling out the trainer earlier.
“I don’t really because it was necessary thing for me to do, as I said. I just regret that I didn’t take it earlier.
“That it got to the point that it was pretty much impossible for me to breathe and to play. It took a little bit longer.”
The rule book allows for some free interpretation when it comes to determining if medical issues are treatable. It’s possible that Azarenka’s problems could qualify her for a timeout, but the timing and length of it was very questionable, and the move was unsportsmanlike. She should not have been allowed to let her timeout go so long.