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The Resurgent Rise of Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Victoria Azarenka (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)


Former number one player and two-time Australian Open champion just did what hasn’t been done since Steffi Graff in 1996 and that is win back to back titles at Indian Wells and in Miami. Azarenka, also known by her nickname Vika, defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday to win her third Miami title. Kuznetsova, the 2006 Miami Open champion, took out Serena Williams earlier in the tournament in the round of 16.

The Miami Open is Victoria’s third title of the year, bringing her 2016 record to 22-1. Her only loss coming at the hands of 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. It has been a long road back for Vika, who fell to the ranking of 32 in the world in 2014. She has had to pull out of many tournaments due to injuries and until she won Brisbane earlier in the year, she was in a title drought that spanned for two years. But now the tides are changing. With her win at the Miami Open Vika will see her ranking shoot up to number five in the world. An incredible feat considering she started the year ranked 22.

For Victoria, a top five ranking will mean she will have favorable draws that will not pit her against top players like Serena Williams in early rounds. Victoria might have had more success in 2015 had she not run into Serena in the early rounds of two of the grand slam tournaments. Proving that her ranking was just a number she was able to push Serena to three sets in the three matches where they met, evening holding a match point against Serena at the clay tournament Madrid. However, Serena was able to fight back in those matches, thwarting Victoria’s chance to rise in the ranking. With her recent victory over Serena in the Indian Wells final, Vika announced to the world that she is officially back and ready to reclaim her number one spot.

Victoria backed by her tight knit team of her coach Wim Fissette and hitting partner Sascha Bajin, who was the longtime hitting partner of Serena, have helped Victoria make improvements to her game that has allowed her to return to the top echelon of the women’s game.

Two noticeable differences are the movement and the serve. When Azarenka was at the top of the sport she was known as a pretty good mover, now it seems she has elevated her defensive skills, allowing her to go the distance in rallies and patiently wait for her moments to attack.  Victoria has always been seen at the biggest threat to Serena because of her ability to be offensive and defensive. Now with her increased ability to absorb power shots and get to more balls, she has a great chance of challenging Serena to win the big title. As far as the serve was concerned, it appeared that Victoria used it to start the point rather than as a weapon. Vika has always had good placement off the serve but the speed was lacking. Based off her last two tournaments it is clear that Vika is going for more on her first serve and making a conscious effort to win free points off the serve. These two combined adjustments have given Victoria the edge she needs to continue her stretch of winning the major tournament on the WTA tour.

Last season, Serena Williams, dominated the tour in her pursuit of the calendar slam. The biggest question tennis experts have been asking is who will step up to challenge Serena? Victoria was a consistent challenger last year, pushing Serena to three setters each time they faced each other. Victoria can now celebrate knowing that her hard work is paying off and allowed her to defeat Serena for a big title in Indian Wells.

It has been a difficult journey for Victoria to get back to the top standings of the women’s game. Injury combined with low ranking have made her comeback a difficult process. The results are showing that Victoria has finally put all the pieces together and as she states becoming a better player more than ever before.  The women’s field better be prepared because Vika is back and hungry to win as much as she can!

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