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Exclusive interview with Victoria Azarenka

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victoria_azarenka_miami.jpgName: Victoria Azarenka

Nickname: Vika

Date of Birth: July 31, 1989
Birthplace: Minsk, Belarus
Current Residence: Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

Height: 5'10" (1.80 m)
Weight: 130 lbs (60 kg)
Plays: Right-handed / Two-handed backhand
Status: Pro (2003)

Career
Current Ranking: 9
Prize Money: $ 2,649,023
Win Loss Record - Singles: 165-75
Win Loss Record - Doubles: 83-34

Azarenka broke into the top 10 by winning the Sony Ericsson WTA in 2009 and became only the second Belarussian ever to do so following Natasha Zvereva.  She became just the 6th teenage female singles champion in the history of this tournament.  She is also the first player in 2009 to debut in the Top 10. TheSportsCampus.com had a chance to interview her after her tremedous win - following are her answers.

 

TSC: A lot of great juniors don't necessarily make the grade on the senior tour, how difficult did you find the step up in class?

Victoria: Yeah there is a big difference from the juniors and the WTA Tour, but I just kept playing my game and working on improving different areas so I could win and compete with the top players.

 

azarenka_se_open_trophy.jpgTSC: How important for you was that first win over Marion at the Brisbane International at the start of the year? How has it affected your performance at other events?

Victoria: My win over Marion was very important to me because I had reached the finals of four other WTA events before this, before finally winning my first event. It gave me a lot of confidence to start off the year, and then in Memphis I felt much more relaxed when I won my second title.

 

TSC: Do you prepare differently for the Grand Slams? Is there a mental side to your preparation?

Victoria: Yeah the Grand Slams are always different than the other tournaments because we are all playing to win one of them, so I make sure that I train well and do fitness (work) but get enough rest too so that I am not tired because it is a long two weeks. Mentally, I make sure I am fresh and prepared and just stay focused.

 

TSC: How are you preparing for the French Open? What are your expectations from the event?

Victoria: For the French Open I am taking the week off before and will probably go home to Minsk to train and then will arrive in Paris around Wednesday or Thursday. For the French I just want to play my game and play well like I have been this year and not put too much pressure on myself.

 

TSC: On your blog you've mentioned that you and Vera (Zvonareva) will play doubles together at the Grand Slams. How do you fit in practice sessions with her?

Victoria: Yeah its tough with our schedules, but we fit in practice for doubles when we can. We just really play well together in doubles and I really like playing so hopefully we can play at the Grand Slams and keep winning.

 

TSC: Which is your favourite surface, what did you grow up playing on?

Victoria: My favorite surface is hard court and the surface at the Australian Open. I have always played well on these two surfaces. At home in Minsk I grew up playing indoors a lot and then when I went to Spain on red clay.

 

TSC: How does it feel to be among the top 10 players in the world?

Victoria: It is unbelievable. I was so excited and happy to break into the top ten and win the Sony Ericsson Open. I couldn't believe it right away.

 

TSC: What are your professional ambitions?

Victoria: Well for sure my goal is to win a Grand Slam, that is what we are all training so hard for and playing for.

 

TSC: Do you have a role model in tennis? Any other sporting heroes?

Victoria: One of my role models growing up was Steffi Graf because she was just so classy and such a great player. I also look up to Nik Khabibulin who is the NHL goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks. I have been living with Nik and his family in Arizona since I was 15. He is always there for me and I can talk to him about anything.

 

TSC: Who introduced you to tennis when you were younger, and what did you like best about it?

Victoria: Yeah when I was younger I used to (go) with my mom to work everyday at the tennis club she worked at and then I started playing in the clinics with the other kids. It was just so much fun to me and I was just crazy about it.

 

TSC: At what age did you begin training for this sport? How many hours a day do you spend on training now that you are a professional?

Victoria: When I was fourteen I moved to Marbella, Spain, to train but it wasn't a good fit for me and then I decided to move to the U.S. with Khabibulins and my coach Antonio Van Grichen. Now when I am training in between tournaments I practice two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon and do one hour of fitness with my fitness coach Mark Wellington.

 

TSC: Do you follow a strict / specific diet plan? Any regular exercise / relaxation regime that you follow apart from training?

Victoria: I don't follow a really strict diet, but I just try to eat healthy when I am practising and training. I train pretty hard and practice a lot, so I don't really have any other routines.

 

TSC: Has interest in tennis increased in Belarus after you came into the limelight? We believe you live in Florida now, do you go back home to Minsk often?

Victoria: Well before me Natasha Zvereva and Max Miryni were really popular in Belarus so I am not sure if there is more interest in tennis now in Belarus because of me but I hope so. And yeah, I train in Florida now sometimes but I live in Scottsdale in Arizona when I am not on the road traveling. I go home to Minsk a few times a year but it is hard to go a lot with the tournament schedule and all the traveling.

Photograph Copyright: Ron C Angle