Azarenka Collapses on Court: A Strange and Terrible Saga

So this article will be short today. I am in a foul mood.  I always had a thing for Victoria Azarenka ever since I watched her play at the Australian Open 2009. Watching YouTube videos and reading Fastscript interviews followed quickly after that to feed my infatuation. Every interview I could find of her, I read.  And every tournament she played, I would check the draw to see if she’s got a half decent chance of winning it.

I am not asking for much but a win, much like the one she recorded at Stanford a few weeks ago, every now and then would be great. Especially with a victory over fellow Russian countrywoman Maria Sharapova.

With the Stanford win in her pocket, a good run at the US Open 2010 seemed very very possible. I secretly even dreamed of her winning the 2010 edition of the final major of the year.

Alas, this afternoon while I was surfing the net and keeping scores in my browser I received the notification  that Azarenka had collapsed and was wheelchaired off the court during her match versus Argentinan Gisela Dulko. Azarenka trailed 5-1 in the first set.

Of course, major panic struck on the court. Her trainer and tournament officials came rushing to check if Vika was still breathing.

“I was scared,” Dulko said. “She went to the floor. I was worried for her. I went to see her, brought some ice, did whatever I could do to help.”

The weather has been incredibly hot at the US Open since the start. With temparatures during the day rising to mid 90s.  But tournament officials did not activate the Extreme Weather Policy which allows for icebags and a request for a 10-minute break amongst other things during changeovers.

“It’s tough to play out there,” Dulko said. “It’s really hot, really humid. You sweat so much, sometimes it’s impossible to hold the racket.”

And Dulko is pretty much right. Playing under these circumstances is tough and for a player who has a history of not being able to cope with heat like Azarenka (retired match versus Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Australian Open 2009) it must be even tougher.

But then tweets started to appear about Azarenka bumping her head prior to the match. If that is so, then why did no one even do a quick medical examination before the match started? Just to see if she can actually play.

And John Koblin from The Observer wrote the following from the pressroom:

The early consensus in the press room seems to be that this was likely related to her fitness, and not exclusively a reflection of the heat out there. It’s just over 90 degrees now, and it was hotter at times yesterday.

Yes, hotter at times yesterday. But she didn’t play yesterday. She may have practiced but that’s different from a match.

The WTA was asked for a comment but they were quick to say that it is up to the USTA. The USTA came with the following statement:

US Open Tournament Referee Brian Earley said in a statement following the match: “Victoria Azarenka retired from her match with headache-like symptoms. She was taken to a nearby hospital for diagnostic testing. Out of respect to her privacy, we cannot give any more details. However, we can say that this does not seem to be primarily a heat-related illness.”

Greg Couch of Fanhouse was quick to Tweet that all this may be a cover up. But then again, a cover up for what? Surely something must be at stake, if there are any cover ups in the first place.

Azarenka wobbling from the start in high heat. WTA won’t comment. USTA gives odd statement she had a headache-like. That passes smell test? – Greg Couch

With temparatures rising up until 90 degrees, things outside decay quicker. Let’s hope that this one doesn’t and that we get a full explanation in either a  press release or a press conference.

An early conclusion based on the reports I have read is that her collapse on the court could very well be a combination of two things: The heat and her bumping her head prior to the match. But then the question still remains: Why wasn’t there a medical examination before she started her match versus Dulko?

Azarenka’s official statement is as follows:

“I was warming up in the gym prior to my match against Gisela Dulko when I fell while running a sprint,” Azarenka later said in a statement. “I fell forward and hit my arm and head. I was checked by the medical team before I went on court and they were courtside for monitoring.

“I felt worse as the match went on, having a headache and feeling dizzy. I also started having trouble seeing and felt weak before I fell.

“I was taken to the hospital for some medical tests and have been diagnosed with a mild concussion.”

Check the gallery and video to see how Victoria Azarenka lays on the Grandstand court and later is wheeled off in a wheelchair.

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