Victoria Azarenka may be a former world No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion. But under quarantine, the Belarusian is just like the rest of us.
As the second month of strict self-isolation measures nears its end, it’s common practice for time to have transformed into a lost art. Especially for a world-class athlete programmed to traverse the globe with complex itineraries and an extensive checklist to cross off before the night is over.
“It's like every day is the same kind of day. I kind of lose the track,” Azarenka told Brett Haber and Mary Carillo on Tennis Channel Live. “I keep putting goals on my calendar just to make sure I know which day of the week it is. This unknown gives a lot of anxiety and motivation kind of goes down.”
Azarenka is one of a handful of WTA players juggling career aspirations with responsibilities that come with being a mom. Her competitive edge is one primary reason why the 20-time WTA title holder was able to summit the top of her sport and match the fierceness of arguably her tour’s greatest competitor ever, Serena Williams. After being home with three-year old son Leo for an extended period, the 30-year-old has discovered she isn’t the only person under her roof with a strong drive to succeed.
“It's been one month just with him, but his competitive side comes out. I don't really know where it's coming from,” said Azarenka. “He always wants to win everything. It's impossible to play with him if he doesn't win. That's been a little bit of challenge for me, because I like to win as well. And I have to pretend that I'm losing to him all the time. This drives me a little crazy, to be honest.”
Over the years, Azarenka's innate passion and fighting spirit have resonated on the court. She's fed off magnetic energy in arenas to rise to the occasion and put on a show, though knows that might not be her environment when tour-action first resumes. Playing behind closed doors is a top consideration for safely bringing the sport back—one that has already been implemented in Germany and set to continue with the launch of the UTR Pro Match Series in West Palm Beach, Fla. this weekend.
“I think without fans to have that thrill and motivation will be a little bit hard to reproduce, that battlefield. That is really what it's all about,” said Azarenka. “I feel the best competitors that go out there, are entertainers, want to be in front of the crowd, have eyes on us for that moment. For me, it will be a little bit weird. But we also practice so much without anybody looking. So in terms of tennis quality, I don't think that can change much.”
Azarenka has been staying focused on her workouts and hitting balls when possible. The current No. 58 insisted to Carillo that she still cares about winning and losing the same way she did before becoming a major champion, and has no intention of slowing down in the near future. For Azarenka, it’s all about finding the equilibrium of competitor versus parent, an undertaking she is working to master.
“Hopefully, if it doesn't last for 10 years, I'll be able to play,” laughed Azarenka. “I feel like I can find a little bit of a better balance, that’s something I’ve been working on in terms of my priorities.
“I keep feeling this guilt when I go out and play, because I want to spend time with Leo. At the same time, I still want to play and compete. So I think the key will be to find that balance. It’s a bigger challenge than before, but I feel like I can do it. I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t think I could still do better than I did before.”