Article

Azarenka refutes criticism of time-outs

24 January 2013 11:07

Australian Open finalist Victoria Azarenka has hit back at criticism of her controversial medical time-outs on Thursday.

Azarenka claimed that the second-set time-outs in her semi-final against Sloane Stephens were used for genuine ailments and not gamesmanship.

Azarenka, who claimed post-match that she only used one time-out at the time despite the umpire's official report stating she used two, left the court for medical treatment at a crucial time after she had squandered five match points in the ninth game to be broken and have her advantage trimmed to 6-1 5-4.

Stephens appeared to have all the momentum at that stage but was forced to wait for about 10 minutes before she could serve for the second set.

After the world number one finally re-emerged on Rod Laver Arena, she went on to break the American teenager for the seventh time in the match to complete a straight-sets victory.

But Azarenka denied she used her timeouts to regain her composure and maintained that rib and back problems were preventing her from breathing properly.

"It was (a) necessary thing for me to do," Azarenka said.

"I couldn't breathe; I couldn't swing. I think it was pretty obvious that my shots were a little bit different.

"That's I think the misunderstanding of the situation, you know, what I said that I was stressed out and choked was not because I couldn't finish my shot.

"It was just so stressing me out the pain that I had that - you know, maybe it was (an) overreaction, but I just really couldn't breathe."

Azarenka didn't think she owed Stephens an apology for making her wait so long between games despite admitting fault over the timing of the medical timeouts.

"For the timing, I cannot be in control how long it takes to fix my injury, you know," the defending champion said.

"As I said, they wanted to take two medical timeouts, for the knee and for that, but I wanted to take one because I wanted to go back on court.

"So that was it. The timing that I shouldn't have put myself in that situation to have that pain? Yeah, I shouldn't have done that. I should have done it earlier, for sure.

"But I thought I was going to, you know, play through the pain.

"So there was a little bit of my bad. But just a rib got locked and kept getting worse. I had to have it adjusted. I really had to go and take that medical timeout.

"I just regret 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."

Azarenka said she 'freaked out' when she couldn't breathe properly.

"When you cannot breathe you start to panic. You know, I was really panicking, not because I couldn't convert my match point. That's not the case," she said.

"I mean, I'm experienced enough to go over those emotions. But when you cannot breathe, when something's really blocking you, the stress, that was the stress I was talking about.

"I just couldn't realise what was going on with me.

"So that was freaking me out, that I never felt, you know, something like that before."

Meanwhile, Azarenka didn't think the experience of winning last year's final at Melbourne Park would be an advantage against Li Na when the two face off for the title on Saturday.

"She (Li) has been in a final. She's won a grand slam also. She has the experience. So that's not such a big factor, I would say," Azarenka said.

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