United Athletes Magazine
Ė About sports and a healthy lifestyle Ė



March 31, 2010

Victoria Azarenka (info)
The way to the top
Thomas Kieller

Victoria Azarenka: Happy with her trophy.

Victoria is on the Women's Tennis Association Tour since a few years and she demonstrates clearly her talent on the court. She triumphed in a few single tournaments such as in Miami by beating along the way the world number one Serena Williams. Indeed, the Belarusian lady proved that she can rely on her forehands and backhands from the back of the court. Besides, she took her place among the selective top 10 of womenís tennis. Her progression will now be more arduous knowing that the competition is fierce at the top of the ranking. Let us remember that there are Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva and the Williams sisters who are all in great form and their playing styles are well tuned. The player from Minsk will be well advised to perfect her strategy and her tennis in order to challenge on a regular basis these athletic players. Also, she should continue to improve her physical conditioning so as to be in maximum form during the four demanding Grand Slam tournaments. Yet, concern does not hover over her because when one sees her potential, one knows that she can improve thousands of aspects of her game. It will be our pleasure to follow her progression closely and to see where her passion will lead her!

The phone-interview took place on August 18, 2009 at 19:50 after Victoria defeated Shuai Peng from China by the score of 6-3, 6-3 at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in Toronto, Canada.

The competition
Thomas Kieller: You went up quite quickly in the WTA ranking. In 2004, you were ranked 506th, in 2005: 146th, in 2006: 92nd, in 2007: 30th, in 2008: 15th and now youíre ranked 9th in the world. What are you objectives right now?

Victoria Azarenka: Yes, I improved quite significantly. My main goal is to improve my game and by doing so I will have better results and my ranking will follow. So, I hope to develop my game.

Thomas: If you want to go up, you must beat the best players of the Tour such as Dinara Safina, Serena and Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova. What are the aspects of your playing style which will give you an edge in a match against a top 5 player, for example, Serena Williams?

Victoria: Well I donít want to talk especially about Serena, but in general it is very important to be tough mentally because a player like Serena knows how to play big matches and big points. And thatís the most important thing to do for me.

Thomas: Are there similar characteristics between players like Dinara Safina, Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva? Iím thinking about their fitness and their powerful shots.

Victoria: Actually, Dinara and Serena have different styles in their game. If I compare them, Serena is more aggressive and Safina is more an all around player. So, when you approach the match against them, you must have a different plan.

Thomas: And, who do you consider your toughest opponent right now and why?

Victoria: Well, it is tough to say. It depends a lot on the tournament and also I might say every day is different. One player can play quite well one day, but on another day her performance can be different. Concerning Dinara and Serena, they had great results in 2009. I played both of them in a 2009 Grand Slam tournament and I lost three times. I was close against Safina at the Roland-Garros tournament where I lost 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. However, against Serena at the Australian Open, I lost 3-6 4-2 (I had to retire) and at Wimbledon I lost 6-2, 6-3. It was really tough against her. She was playing really good there. In 2009, she was in an amazing form.

Training to improve your game
Thomas: Youíre now in the top ten. So, you will see these girls: Serena, Dinara, Svetlana, Elena, Caroline and Venus more often. Obviously, you have to train a lot to have the upper hand on them and to get to the top. Could you tell me how many hours you train per day?

Victoria: It depends if Iím on a tournament or not. If Iím not on a tournament, I work five to six hours a day. There were a few days where I trained up to seven hours.

Thomas: Wow! Is it tough to keep the motivation for such a long period? Do you need sometimes a push from your coach Antonio van Grichen or anybody else?

Victoria: Yes definitely, I have two coaches who are always pushing me because it is difficult to do it on your own. Itís really hard. So, I have a lot of mental help from them.

Thomas: To work regularly like this, you need the necessary work ethic and I think you developed this quite early. When you were younger, you moved at 15 years old to Spain and eventually you took the direction of Scottdales, Arizona, United States where you trained. Could you tell me why you went to Scottdales?

Victoria: I had my friends there who invited me over to play because the conditions are better for me to practice and they have good weather. They also help me in the coaching aspect. Thatís all.

Thomas: Are you the only pro tennis player to train in Scottdales and is there a tennis academy there?

Victoria: No, Iím not practicing in an academy. Iím just practicing in a regular club.

Thomas: Many players trained in Florida, United Stated such as many Russian tennis players. Was Florida an option for you?

Victoria: Actually, I practiced in Florida too.

Thomas: Oh yes! On a similar aspect, Dominika CibulkovŠ told me that she likes to train in the mountains because there is less distraction. Is there a difference between training in Scottdales if we compare to Spain or in an academy as in Florida?

Victoria: No, for me it does not really matter because I do not get distracted. Itís quite the opposite; I train better when I have my friends around because it makes everything easier. Of course, I will add that I have to separate training and work from my free time.

Thomas: We know that you have a very good backhand. So tell me, you train mostly on what aspect with your coach to improve your tennis?

Victoria: At this moment, I always practice everything because I feel I need to improve every shot in my repertoire and every aspect of my game.

Thomas: Concerning your physical conditioning, you focus on what?

Victoria: On the physical aspect, I work also on everything because I still have a lot of room to improve like getting faster and stronger. So, I will work on a lot of things such as running and working in a gym.

Thomas: Do you like to do cardio-respiratory exercises such as jogging?

Victoria: Well, I have to say that I donít like too much jogging but of course I have to do it.

Thomas: Is fitness a predominant factor precisely in a tournament such as the Australian Open where itís very hot?

Victoria: The physical conditioning and tennis, it goes together. I cannot really say that one must practice something more than the rest. I will rather say that when you train, one must know how to work a specific aspect and when to do it.

Thomas: Is there a difference in the physical conditioning between a top 10 player and for example a player who is ranked lower such as in the top 40?

Victoria: Itís a kind of hard question to answer because there are so many different types of players. Some of them are more fit and others less. One thing is sure, some girls are very fit.

Last words
Thomas: At the top of the WTA ranking, do you believe that there is a clash between playing styles and personalities?

Victoria: Oh yes! Every player is different and they bring their own game and personalities. This is one of the things that make the game of tennis so attractive.

Thomas: Thank you Victoria and continue your good work.