October 31st, 2014
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Victoria Azarenka couldn’t make a winning return to action as she stepped back on to the court for the first time since March.
The Belarusian former World Number one was stopped in her tracks in the first round at Eastbourne at the Aegon International by Camila Giorgi this week. Azarenka, currently ranked eighth in the world because of a long absence from the game, took the first set but was unable to hold out against the Italian.
Even though the result didn’t go her way, Azarenka will have been happy with her performance on the court, as it was a fantastic fitness work out for her, being a match which took three hours to complete. Azarenka picked up a foot injury back in March and it has been a long road to recovery for her. But the fact that she hung in there for as long as possible, her resistance pushing the final set to 7-5 against Giorgi, was a positive sign for her.
It was never going to be perfect from Azarenka, not on her first match back on court. But her fierce competitive edge was there, and even though she was naturally a little court-rusty with her shots, she will have gotten enough out of the test to carry some confidence forward. It is of course now onto the third Grand Slam of the year, Wimbledon where the confidence has to be directed.
Azarenka, two time Australian Open champion, hasn’t been to the final of Wimbledon yet in her career, her best efforts being semi final exits in 2011 and 2012. Bookmakers have priced her up as a 12/1 shot to go all the way this year, with only six players shorter priced than her in the outright winner market.
Her career record at Wimbledon is 21-8, she having a better record at the Australian Open and the US Open. Twelve months at at SW19 there were unhappy memories for Azarenka in London, who had to pull out of the tournament ahead of her second round match against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta.
It is a little unrealistic to suggest that she is going to pull something special out of the bag, in what will be just her fifth tournament of the year. That is a severe lack of games under her belt for the season, which is only going to work against a player when it comes crunch time, especially at a Grand Slam. Match sharpness counts for a lot.
So she is still waiting for her maiden Wimbledon title. Is it likely to happen this year? Well, the women’s game looks wide open at the moment, and if she avoids the big guns of Simona Halep (10/1), Serena Williams (6/5) and Maria Sharapova (5/1) then maybe she may have a shot at the quarter finals. But realistically winning isn’t realistic and it probably won’t even be in her mind.
One match on grass this year, just one match since early Match at Indian Wells isn’t enough to be running as a strong contender at a Grand Slam.