Jan 25 2013
Victoria Azarenka is hoping the dust has now settled on her controversial semi-final defeat of Sloane Stephens as she plots a way to defend her Australian Open crown against Li Na on Saturday.
Azarenka took a 10-minute medical timeout immediately after failing to take one of five match points against the teenage American. In the immediate aftermath, when asked why she left the court at 5-4 in the second set, Azarenka said: "I felt a little bit overwhelmed and realising I was one step away, nerves got into me."
However, an hour later she claimed a locked rib which left her struggling to breathe was the reason for her departure from Rod Laver Arena. And she sought to clarify the situation further on Friday, saying: "I feel like yesterday was big news. It's fair for me to give my story. It was a big misunderstanding. It was bad timing. I would never do something against a player, especially Sloane. I've known her since she was a little girl."
She went on: "It's not fair to me because everyone can make a mistake.
"I just need to calm down with the whole situation, with what happened, and make sure my body's right."
The issue has overshadowed the build-up to what should be an intriguing contest between the top seed and China's Li, who thrashed Maria Sharapova to reach her second Melbourne final.
"She's in incredible form right now," Azarenka said. "She's in the final so anything can happen. It looks like she has improved a lot. It will be a tough match so I'm really looking forward to it."
Li was not willing to give her opinion on the timeout issue and preferred instead to concentrate on the match itself.
She lost to Kim Clijsters in the final here in 2011 but went on to become the first Asian player to win a major a few months later at the French Open.
"Last time I was more excited, more nervous," she said. "This time I am calmer, more cool."