Vika victorious under pressure
NEW YORK -- Victoria Azarenka was heading to her chair, having taken the second set from No. 26 Alize Cornet to even the third-round match, when the chair umpire called her back onto the court.
One of the line judges had called her ball out, and the point would have to be replayed.
"What the hell are you doing?" Azarenka yelled to the line judge. She argued a moment more with the chair umpire, sent a "You suck" back to the line judge for emphasis, and then headed back to the baseline to serve.
Azarenka won the set -- again, if you ask her -- and then the match 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2. But the moment showed that even the steely No. 2 seed can get rattled when legitimately pushed, which was exactly what Cornet was doing.
"It just showed that she was a bit nervous to finish the second set, she saw that I was still close behind and saw that I was fighting like an animal to come back." Cornet said. "And I think she was stressed out a little bit."
After the match, Azarenka didn't give an inch when asked about the call.
"That was the most ridiculous thing there is," she said. "I walked to my chair, Alize almost walked to her chair, they said 'Replay the point.' "
Azarenka and her intensity are one of only a few credible threats to No. 1 Serena Williams' dominance (another being No. 15 Sloane Stephens, whom she will face in the fourth round Sunday). But had Azarenka been knocked out earlier, there would be one less woman in the draw who has beaten Williams this year.
For Cornet at least, Azarenka was too strong -- and got better as the pressure increased.
"You know she's a great champion because she always puts pressure on her opponent, mental pressure," Cornet said. "She's always fighting, never missing, and you always have to play every game 100 percent the whole match to beat her. I could do it for one set and a half but unfortunately, I gave all I had and it was not enough."
Azarenka's strength, physical and mental, is what makes her one of the three most consistent players currently on tour, with Williams and Maria Sharapova, who withdrew from the Open with a shoulder injury.
"I like pressure," Azarenka said. "I think pressure is something that if you want to be on top, you have to deal with. That's what makes you better."
No doubt there will be more of it when Azarenka faces No. 13 Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round.