Victoria Azarenka scored her first win in over a year, beating 15th seed Donna Vekic 6-2, 6-3 in the opening round of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday, but feels not having fans in the stands, ‘still sucks.’
“We are entertainers, at least I feel that way, and I want to be in front of the crowd,” said former World No 1 Azarenka, who last won a match at the Cincinnati Masters in August, 2019.
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The Cincinnati event has been moved to New York this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Flushing Meadows is hosting the Western & Southern Open a week before the US Open to keep the players in a bio-secure bubble.
“I have been in different situations, but I miss fans. I feel like they (fans) create an energy. You know, those kind of magical moments always happen when there is a crowd, and it can swing each way.”
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But the Belarussian hoped that tennis doesn’t go the NBA way and seat virtual fans in the stands through video-boards.
“I hope they don’t put fake people, because that’s going to be super weird,” said Azarenka about the upcoming US Open, which will be held behind closed doors. “Whatever the NBA is, to me it looks so creepy. So I hope that’s not going to happen.”
Trouble in Belarus
The 31-year-old was reluctant to speak about the political situation in Belarus. The former Soviet country has been rocked by a series of protests against the election of President Alexander Lukashenko and demand for a democratic government.
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“Honestly that’s breaking my heart to see what’s happening,” said the two-time Australian Open champion.
“It’s really sad, and it’s really difficult to speak on that. But I just hope that all the violence stops immediately.
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“I hope people’s voices are heard. As I said, it’s a very, very difficult topic to speak on. I don’t want to be put on and my words be taken to anybody’s agenda, so I’m going to do what I feel like doing without media, you know, attention and twisting it to their own ways.”
Venus, Gauff lose
Meanwhile, the first day of the Western & Southern Open proved hard on the home players, as Americans Venus Williams, Coco Gauff and Alison Riske were ousted.
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Venus went down 7-5, 2-6, 5-7 to 16th seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine while Maria Sakkari breezed past 16-year-old Gauff 6-1, 6-3. Amanda Anisimova beat 11th seed Alison Riske 6-3, 6-3 in an all-American clash.