Victoria Azarenka walked off court during the round of 32 match at the Miami Open without giving a reason to either her opponent or the chair umpire.
Azarenka has been playing under the neutral flag since the Belarus tennis federation has been banned by the tennis bodies due to her country’s support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This is the second strange incident involving Azarenka this month. At Indian Wells, the 32-year-old broke down in tears mid-way through her 3-6, 4-6 loss to Elena Rybakina.
— Marty (@Svitoflopina) March 27, 2022
On Sunday, Azarenka abruptly decided to leave the court after falling behind 6-2 3-0 to 16-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova.
“Vika we need to wait,” the umpire could be heard saying as Azarenka strode off.
Former player Daniela Hantuchova slammed Azarenka’s unexplained departure.
“The most disrespectful thing about this is how she walked off the court without really giving a reason,” Hantuchova, a former World No 5, said.
“I think the WTA will really have to look into this.
“This one for me is really bizarre and really disrespectful to the crowd, to the umpire and most importantly to Linda (Fruhvirtova).
“I think Vika (Azarenka) just knows if she kept going this way she would be off the court anyway very shortly.
“But just the way she’s done it, it’s not nice behaviour.”
Her retirement saw Fruhvirtova become the youngest player to reach the last 16 of the Miami Open since 2004.
“I don’t know what happened at the end,” Fruhvirtova told AFP.
“She was struggling with some injuries. I don’t know but it was an honour to share the court with her.
“You never want to end the match this way but it happens. We shook hands and then she walked off.”
Two-time major champion Azarenka, who had deleted her social media accounts in the wake of her problems at Indian Wells, released a statement citing personal issues.
“I shouldn’t have gone on the court today. The last few weeks have been extremely stressful in my personal life,” she said.
“Last match took so much out of me, but I wanted to play in front of a great audience as they helped me pull through my first match. I wanted to go out there and try but it was a mistake.
“I hope to take a break and be able to come back.
“I’m sorry to the fans for what happened as you were great to cheer for me. It was the only reason I decided to step on the court.
“I always look forward to the challenge and pressure of competition but today it was too much. I have to and will learn from this.
“I would like to congratulate my opponent and wish her best of luck in this tournament and beginning of her professional career.”
Czech wildcard Fruhvirtova is playing in her first major WTA event.