Australian Open: Victoria Azarenka snaps at questions over her health

Victoria Azarenka refused to answer questions about her health after shock defeat to Jessica Pegula

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Victoria Azarenka walked off court during the Miami Open

Victoria Azarenka snapped at questions over her health after she suffered breathing difficulties during her shock defeat at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The two-time Australian Open champion became one of the biggest casualties on Day 2 as she went down 5-7, 4-6 to USA’s Jessica Pegula in the first round at Melbourne Park.

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Azarenka was one of the 72 players forced into hard quarantine upon arrival in Melbourne. And the Belarussian was visibly distressed during the match. She was seen using an inhaler and took two medical timeouts during the match that lasted an hour and 39 minutes.

But when asked if she had an ailment, the 12th seed snapped at the reporters.

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“I don’t really know why we are getting asked about medical conditions,” Azarenka said.

“It shouldn’t be a mandatory requirement for people to talk about their health issues. I think that should be changed, unless players do want to talk about that. I feel a new, adjusted rule should be in place.”

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The 31-year-old had inspired hopes of a career revival at the US Open last year as she defeated Serena Williams to enter the final. But Azarenka’s trip to Melbourne has been far from ideal. After the 14-day quarantine, she pulled out of the quarterfinals of the warm-up event Grampians Trophy due to a lower back injury.

“Of course, it has impacted,” said Azarenka of the hard quarantine. “The biggest impact for me personally was not being able to have fresh air. It really took a toll on me. I don’t have a blueprint of how to prepare.”

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“I’m just disappointed, not being able to perform at my best,” Azarenka added. “Leaving Australian Open so soon is also disappointing, but it is what it is.”

Nadal, Barty dominate

World No 1 Ashleigh Barty produced a near flawless display as she handed out the dreaded ‘double bagel’ to Danka Kovinic, while Rafa Nadal defied his gloomy injury prognosis to crush Laslo Djere in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday.

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Nadal, who had pulled out of his nation’s ATP Cup campaign with a back problem, launched his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title with a 6-3 6-4 6-1 win against world No 56 Djere.

The Spaniard, looking for his first title at Melbourne Park since 2009, next faces American qualifier Michael Mmoh, who outlasted Viktor Troicki in a marathon five-setter.

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