August 2, 2015

Party Rock Open Returns to Las Vegas Sept. 23-29



LAS VEGAS (Sept. 14, 2013) – The fifth annual USTA $50,000 Pro Circuit women’s event in Las Vegas will return Sept. 23-29 to the Darling Tennis Center, formerly the host site for the ATP Tennis Channel Open.

The Party Rock Open is Las Vegas’ only professional tennis tournament, and is named for LMFAO’s Redfoo and his Party Rock franchise’s title sponsorship. LMFAO was recently nominated for a Grammy Award, and Redfoo has been linked to U.S. Open Finalist Victoria Azarenka.

This year’s tournament features an impressive global player field. Top seed Andrea Hlavackova (lav-atch-KO-va) of the Czech Republic will be making her Party Rock Open debut fresh off capturing the U.S. Open Women’s and Mixed doubles titles.

Another force to be reckoned with is Tamirz Paszek from Austria, who reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2012.

Other notable entrants include Eleni Daniilidou from Greece, winner of five WTA singles titles during her career; Portugese star Michelle Larcher De Brito, who upset Maria Sharapova this summer at Wimbledon; budding American talent Taylor Townsend, the 2012 Australian Open junior champion; and Melanie Oudin, who made a memorable run to the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2009 as a 17-year-old.

Girls’ 18s U.S. National Champion Sachia Vickery, who advanced to the second round at this year’s U.S. Open as a wild card, leads the list of qualifying players.

Other qualifiers include 2012 US Open junior champ Samantha Crawford, Las Vegas’ Asia Muhammad, and Allie Kiick, the daughter of former Miami Dolphins running back Jim Kiick.

The Party Rock Open has served as a showcase for emerging stars during its tenure in Las Vegas, and counts several alumni in the top 50 in the world, including top Jamie Hampton, Sorana Cirstea, and U.S. Olympian Varvara Lepchenko.

“There is no doubt that the next great generation of players will once again be on display at the Party Rock Open,” said Co-Tournament Director Jordan Butler, who also noted that the night matches at Darling create a spectacular setting for fans.

Added tournament founder Tyler Weekes: “It’s time to Party Rock, Vegas pro tennis style.”

Qualifying action begins Sunday, Sept. 22, and is free of charge to attend. Monday, Sept. 23, is also free to the public.

Las Vegas area youth are also encouraged to attend the tournament’s annual Kids’ Day on Sunday, which will feature free tennis clinics, games, and more.

The tournament’s official website is Follow along on Twitter @partyrockopen and on Facebook at


2013 US Open National Playoffs Update – Redfoo to Compete This Week

Victoria Azarenka and Redfoo

(June 17, 2013) This week, musical artist and tennis fan Redfoo, of LMFAO, will be competing in the USTA Northern California Sectional Qualifying Tournament. The NorCal sectional qualifier is being held in Salinas, Calif., and Redfoo will play his singles match on Wednesday, June 19, at 5:30 p.m. local time.


In addition, the USTA Eastern, USTA Southern California and USTA New England sectional qualifying tournaments were completed this past weekend, advancing 11 additional players to the 2013 US Open National Playoffs – Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles Championships in August.




USTA Eastern


In the USTA Eastern tournament held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center—the home of the US Open—in Flushing, N.Y., Damon Gooch, 26, of Bethesda, Md., cruised past Richard Del Nunzio, 19, of Forest Hills, N.Y., 6-3, 6-0. Gooch last year won the USTA Mid-Atlantic Sectional Qualifying Tournament without dropping a set. A standout collegiate player at Elon University, Gooch has been a frequent competitor on the ITF Circuit and USTA Pro Circuit in recent years, winning a doubles event in Venezuela in 2010. He was a top-ranked junior in South Africa and competed for the South African junior team before coming to the U.S. for college.


In women’s singles, Magda Okruashvili, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y., won the Eastern event for the second consecutive year, defeating Alanna Wolff, 18, of Perth Amboy, N.J., 6-0, 6-4. Okruashvili is originally from the country of Georgia and moved to the United States in 2006, where she trains at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She is currently an assistant tennis coach at ASA College in Brooklyn, where she is also studying for a degree in criminal justice.


In the mixed doubles final, Tarakaa Bertrand, 26, of Jamaica, N.Y., and Sam Sweeney, 25, of New York City, won the title, defeating last year’s USTA Eastern mixed doubles winners Alison Adamski and Keith Kessler in a tight 7-6(5), 4-6, [10-5], match. Bertrand played for Vanderbilt, and Sweeney played at North Central College in Illinois and was ranked No. 5 among Division III players in singles.


USTA Southern California


The men’s final of the USTA Southern California tournament in Claremont, Calif., pitted two standout junior boyss. In the final, Mackenzie McDonald, 18, of Piedmont, Calif., and JC Aragone, 17, of Yorba Linda, Calif., faced off with Aragone prevailing, 6-4, 6-4. McDonald and Aragone were doubles partners in the 2013 Easter Bowl, where the duo reached the final. Prior to the Easter Bowl, Aragone won the 2011 USTA Boys’ 16s National Championships. In 2012, however, Aragone suffered a variety of health problems, including kidney and liver failure, after an allergic reaction to medications for the flu. He was then diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Aragone has played in numerous junior events around the world and this year reached the third round of the USTA International Spring Championships in singles and the quarterfinals in doubles (with McDonald).


McDonald will still get a chance to compete in the US Open, however, after winning the mixed doubles title with partner Chanelle Van Nguyen, 19, of Coconut Grove, Fla. McDonald and Van Nguyen defeated current USC standout Kaitlyn Christian and 2012 USTA Southern California sectional qualifying singles winner Dante Cipulli, 6-3, 7-6(4), in the final. Van Nguyen is a current standout for UCLA and was also a Top 50 junior. She played in the junior US Open twice and lists playing on stadium court at the US Open as her greatest thrill.


No. 1 seed Mayo Hibi, 17, of Irvine, Calif., did not drop one set en route to winning the women’s singles title, defeating No. 2 seed Elizabeth Lumpkin, 27, of Naperville, Ill., 6-3, 6-1, to capture her second consecutive USTA Southern California sectional qualifier women’s singles title. Hibi, who competes for Japan, won the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit singles title in Las Cruces, N.M., this year, where she also reached the doubles title. She also captured the $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Hilton Head Island, S.C., last year. As a junior player, Hibi is ranked No.  67 in the ITF World Junior Rankings after winning the 2013 Easter Bowl singles title and the USTA International Spring Championships in back-to-back weeks in April.


USTA New England


In the USTA New England tournament in New Haven, Conn., Nolan Paige, 19, of Fairfield, Conn., captured the New England singles title for the third time in four years. Paige defeated Bryant University standout Dana Parziale, 21, of Cumberland, R.I., 6-0, 7-6, in the final. Paige plays for Stanford and was named the ITA Northwest Region Rookie of the Year this past season. He was one of New England’s top juniors, climbing to No. 5 in the USTA national junior rankings in 2010; he lost just one singles match during his high school career.


In the women’s final, Meghan Kelley, 15, of Falmouth, Maine, defeated Dayna Lord, 17, of Bloomfield, Conn., in a tight match, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6. Kelley, one of the youngest competitors in this year’s competition, has been ranked in the Top 20 in the USTA National Girls’ 14s rankings and won the Girls’ 16s doubles title at the 2012 USTA National Clay Court Championships. Kelley trains at the Manchester Athletic Club in Massachusetts and has also received tennis lessons from Nick Bollettieri. Lord has committed to playing at Brown University.


Kelley also won the mixed doubles title with Daniel Quiceno, 33, of Beverly, Mass., defeating Marjorie Ondeck and Benjamin Zuckerberg, 6-4, 6-2. Quiceno, who teaches at Manchester Athletic Club and once worked at the Bollettieri Academy, was the No. 1 junior in Colombia and starred at Troy University. He has been a hitting partner for Tommy Haas and Maria Sharapova.


The winners or top available finishers from each of the 13 sectional qualifying tournaments held throughout the spring and summer advance to the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles Championships, to be held during the New Haven Open at Yale, an Emirates Airline US Open Series women’s event, in August. The US Open National Playoffs mixed doubles champions receive a main draw wild card into the 2013 US Open, while the men’s and women’s singles champions earn a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament held the week prior to the US Open.



•   The USTA Northern California Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Salinas, will take place June 19-22, at Chamisal Tennis Club.


Redfoo, best known as part of the musical duo LMFAO and the hit songs “Party Rock Anthem” and “Sexy and I Know It,” will compete in Salinas in singles and mixed doubles. In addition to music, Redfoo is also involved with tennis as a player, fan, coach, and tournament sponsor. Redfoo played tennis as a junior and can be seen as a frequent spectator at Grand Slam tournaments. He also sponsored a USTA Pro Circuit women’s event in Las Vegas last fall, titled “The Party Rock Open” after his Party Rock clothing line.


Redfoo, who is entered under his given name Stefan Gordy, will be playing singles and mixed doubles with 17-year-old Ayaka Okuno, of Japan, whom he coaches. Okuno is ranked in the Top 50 in the ITF World Junior Rankings and recently competed in the junior French Open.

Redfoo’s singles match will be held at 5:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday, June 19, and his mixed doubles match will be held on Thursday.


•   The USTA Northern Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Minneapolis will take place June 20-24, at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center; the USTA Midwest tournament in Mason, Ohio, will take place June 22-25, at the Lindner Family Tennis Center; and the USTA Middle States Sectional Qualifying Tournament in West Windsor, N.J., will take place June 22-24, at Mercer County Park.


Visit for additional information on the US Open National Playoffs.


Redfoo to Enter 2013 US Open National Playoffs

Victoria Azarenka and Redfoo

Victoria Azarenka and Redfoo

(March 15, 2013) The USTA announced that music artist Redfoo, of the music group LMFAO, and “Heroes” TV star Sendhil Ramamurthy have both entered the 2013 US Open National Playoffs, which provides the opportunity for all players 14 years of age and older to earn a berth into the US Open.


Redfoo has entered the USTA Northern California Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Salinas, Calif., June 18-23. Ramamurthy has entered the USTA Eastern Sectional Qualifying Tournament held at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center at the home of the US Open, June 9-15. Both celebrities will compete in singles and mixed doubles.


Redfoo, 37, is a rapper, dancer and DJ, best known as part of the musical duo LMFAO, whose hit “Party Rock Anthem” and “Sexy and I Know It” dominated the music charts. Redfoo, who formed LMFAO in 2006, is set to release his first solo album this year. The recording artist is also involved with tennis in a variety of ways—as a player, a fan, a coach, and a tournament sponsor. Redfoo played tennis as a junior and has recently been seen as a spectator at many of the Grand Slam tournaments. Redfoo also sponsored a USTA Pro Circuit women’s event last September, titled “The Party Rock Open” after his Party Rock clothing line, which was won by young American Lauren Davis. Redfoo, who is entered under his given name Stefan Gordy, will be playing singles and mixed doubles with 17-year-old Ayaka Okuno, who he is currently coaching. Okuno is ranked a career-high No. 28 in the ITF World Junior Rankings.


“As a kid, it’s always been a dream of mine to play professional tennis,” said Redfoo. “Thanks to the US Open National Playoffs for giving good players with a dream the chance to qualify for one of the biggest tournaments—the US Open. Every day I see my dream!”


Ramamurthy, 38, was a competitive junior tennis player in Texas who always had dreams of going pro, but fell back on his safety profession—acting. Perhaps best known for playing Dr. Mohinder Suresh on NBC’s “Heroes,” Ramamurthy also co-starred on “Covert Affairs,” “The Office,” and in the current “Beauty and the Beast” on the CW, where he made his debut on the show yesterday. In film, his feature credits include the independents SHOR, BRAHMIN BULLS and THE LIFEGUARD.


“I’m psyched to compete in this year’s US Open National Playoffs,” said Ramamurthy. “Since I was a young player, I always dreamed of snagging a spot at the Open. I am also excited to play on the grounds of the US Open, where all of the action happens and where there is so much US Open history.”


Other celebrities and personalities that have competed in the US Open National Playoffs include Olympic skier Bode Miller, former Major League baseball player Todd Walker, and ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, who teamed with six-time US Open champion Chris Evert in mixed doubles.


Online entry and additional information for each of the 13 sectional qualifying tournaments began today at The entry fee for each of the sectional qualifying tournaments is $100 for singles and $120 for each mixed doubles team ($60 per player). All players competing must have a current USTA membership valid through August 26, 2013.


The US Open National Playoffs begin as a series of sectional qualifying tournaments and will be held in 13 USTA Sections throughout the country. The 13 men’s, women’s and mixed doubles champions or top available finishers from each sectional qualifying tournament will advance to the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s and Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles Championship. All three championships will be held in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, an Emirates Airline US Open Series event.


The US Open National Playoffs men’s and women’s singles champions earn a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, held the week prior to the US Open. The US Open National Playoffs mixed doubles champions receive a wild card into the main draw of the 2013 US Open.


Additional information on the US Open National Playoffs is available now at


Kourtin’ Karen’s Tennis News Week in Review


(March 11, 2013) NEW YORK, NY –  Kourtin’ Karen takes brief look at the week that was week in the offbeat world of tennis.


BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden in New York City

March 4 was World Tennis Day. BNP Paribas sponsored two showdowns –  in Hong Kong and the other in New York City.

Highlight of the Madison Square Garden event – Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro were in the middle of the second set of the showdown whe Nadal pulled out Ben Stiller to play with him. Del Potro brought out 9-yeear-old left Rebecca Suarez who proved to be the best player on the court for the “doubles” match


BNP Paribas Showdown Debuts in Hong Kong with Wozniacki, Radwanska, McEnroe and Lendl



Jelena Jankovic’s Fila Heritage Carwash tennis dress at Indian Wells

Jelena JankovicJ Jankovic skirt











BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party


On the Green Carpet – Photos from the 2013 BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party

Many of those in the tennis media are not really fans of these type of events and exhibitions, but it draws people who are not normally fans of the game. I’m for whatever draws people to watch tennis.

All of the majors should have a “red carpet” event like this. It’s all in good fun and fans and journalists alike can play “Fashion Police.”




No American Men in the Top 20?

With John Isner’s loss to Lleyton Hewitt in his first match at the BNP Paribas Open, depending on how Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish do, there would be no US men in the top 20 of the rankings – this has never happened since the rankings began in 1973.



TMZ Alert

TMZ as well as other media outlets were reporting that there was an arrest warrant out for Jennifer Capriati in conjunction with an alleged assault on her ex-boyfriend Ivan Brannan. Capriati’s publicist denied reports that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.

“What happened has been over-exaggerated. When the full story comes out Jennifer will be vindicated of these charges,” said the spokesperson in a written statement.



Redfoo sightings

Victoria Azarenka and Redfoo


Let’s face it,  pop singer Redfoo is here to stay.  Not only is he a big tennis fan, he supports a USTA Pro Circuit event – the Party Rock Open and is now the significant other of No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.


Advantage exhibitions

Pete Sampras adn Novak Djokovic

Tennis was back in Los Angeles with the LA Tennis Challenge featuring, Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Mardy Fish, James Blake, Bob and Mike Bryan.

Djokovic, Sampras, Fish and the Bryan Brothers Among Those to Particpate in LA Tennis Challenge



Deuce look-a-likes

thing1 &thing2_MG_0415

Separated at birth, the hair anyway – Redfoo and Thing 1 and Thing 2 of Dr. Seuss fame.


Advantage Karaoke

 1-DSC_0957-001V. Azarenka

In the post-match news conference at the BNP Paribas Showdown, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka announced that they revealed that they will be shooting a karaoke video to Rihanna’s “Stay.”


The Rumor Mill

"Austin Powers" and Caroline Wozniacki

“Austin Powers” and Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki put to bed rumors that she and her boyfriend golfer Rory McIlroy had split.

A British tabloid speculated that the reason the golfer had pulled out of the Honda Classic was due to relationship problems with Wozniacki. Meanwhile, why did Wozniacki attend the BNP Paribas Open Players party with Austin Powers. (See above photo)


Advantage news

Tennis will introduce biological passports this year and increase the number of blood tests.

Nadal Returns to Hardcourt with Indian Wells Win; Still Unhappy with 25-Second Rule


Mardy Fish

Game, Set and Match – Welcome back Mardy Fish

Mardy Fish has returned to the tour from a heart ailment, his first event since the US Open.


Photo galleries from the past week

Photos by Curt Janka, Jennifer Knapp, Maria Noble and Karen Pestaina.

[nggallery id=75]

[nggallery id=78]

[nggallery id=76]

[nggallery id=77]

[nggallery id=79]

[nggallery id=80]

[nggallery id=81]

[nggallery id=82]




On the Green Carpet – Photos from the 2013 BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party

Victoria Azarenka and Redfoo

Victoria Azarenka and Redfoo

"Austin Powers" and Caroline Wozniacki

“Austin Powers” and Caroline Wozniacki

(March 7, 2013) INDIAN WELLS, California – The BNP Paribas Open held their players’ party at the IW club on Thursday night. The tennis players drove up to the “Green Carpet” in classic cars included  Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Victoria Azarenka, Redfoo, Sloane Stephens, Petra Kvitova, Andy Murray, Ana Ivanovic, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, John Isner, Agnieszka Radwanska, Sam Stosur, James Blake, David Ferrer,  and a host of others including Austin Powers.

Photos by Curt Janka and Maria Noble. Follow Tennis Panorama News’ BNP Paribas Open coverage here and on our twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

[nggallery id=78]



Del Potro and Serena Williams Victorious at BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden


(March 4, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – World Tennis Day was celebrated from Hong Kong to New York on Monday.In New York’s Madison Square Garden, Juan Martin Del Potro and Serena Williams were celebrating wins over Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka respectively, in the BNP Paribas Showdown.

The ladies led off the event. Both women appeared a little out of practice to start but began to demonstrate their shot-making skills later in the first set which Williams won 6-4.



At 3-3 in the second set Azarenka called on her boyfriend pop music star Redfoo to play a point for her.  He missed both serves to which Azarenka commented, “He needs to practice before his exhibition.”

Azarenka and Williams honored Nadal by playing a few points left-handed. Williams took the match 6-4, 6-3.


Serena Williams photo from

In their post-match news conference they revealed that they will be shooting a karaoke video to Rihanna’s “Stay.” Williams made not that Azarenka is one of only a few players that she’s close to off of the court.

V. Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka photo from


Williams said Azarenka is one of the few players she’s close to off the court.

“We really respect each other,” Williams proclaimed “I love Victoria as a person. I love how she’s so competitive on the court.”


With all of the talk about being concerned about playing on hard court, Rafael Nadal looked comfortable playing Del Potro on a hard court  in the “world’s most famous Arena.”

For both men it was their “garden” debut.

Despite Nadal losing 7-6 (4), 6-4 to Del Potro, the Spaniard appeared to move pain-free and was smiling throughout the match. He was, however, cautious about jumping for overheads.

They also dabbled in some trick-shot plays. Both players attempted between-the-legs shots and headers like soccer players.

Nadal brought actor Ben Stiller for a few point to play doubles against Del Potro and a little girl from the crowd. The young girl proved to be a better player than the actor- comedian. After winning both point Del Potro carried the little girl for a few moments to the cheers of the crowd.


Juan Marin Del Potro

In the post-match news conference, Del Potro could relate to Nadal’s seven-month absence from the tour as Del Potro was sidelined for eight months with a wrist injury in 2010.

“It’s amazing how great he’s recovered,” the Argentine said.

“He’s going to be fighting for No. 1 very, very soon”

I his first three tournaments back, Nadal’s  is 12 – 1 with two titles – all on clay courts. Nadal has expressed his concern with playing on hards with Indian Wells and Miami coming up.


Rafael Nadal

“That will be a big test for me,” Nadal said as he will play in Indian Wells later this week. “Today I know I can play on clay; that’s a very important thing to know for me.

“Today, my only goal is to recover the knee 100%. I feel better and better every week. If things go well, I’ll try to keep playing.”

[nggallery id=75]

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama



Azarenka Defends Australian Open Title in Topsy Turvy Final

Victoria Azarenka Miami Players Party

By Jaclyn Stacey


(January 26, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Victoria Azarenka successfully defended her Australian Open title on Saturday at Melbourne Park after triumphing over Li Na in a drama filled final 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 40 minutes.


In a bizarre display of ankle rolls, near concussions, fireworks delays, 85 unforced errors, 16 breaks of serve and some scintillating tennis, it was Azarenka who remained focused and determined in claiming the championship and in doing so will also hold on to her number one ranking come Monday. Azarenka also becomes the eighth different women’s champion to successfully defend the title in the Open Era.


Azarenka received a lukewarm reception from the crowd on the back of her controversial semifinal clash against Sloane Stephens in which she has been widely accused of gamesmanship after taking a questionable Medical Timeout in the critical stages of the second set. With the crowd firmly in the favor of the Chinese, it was a subdued Azarenka who dropped her racquet upon winning the match, shook hands with Li at the net and subsequently broke down into her towel with relief. There were no big celebrations and Azarenka avoided the aforementioned topic in her acceptance speech, choosing to play it safe and thank her team, the tournament organizers and Li.


“I feel really happy right now. It’s been a long match. It’s been a tough match. Li Na was absolutely playing great tennis. Unfortunate things that happened to her, you know, but that’s sport,” Azarenka said. “But, yeah, I’m just happy that everything I went through, you know, I still could manage to give my best and really come out there and try to focus on my game and play tennis that I can produce. And that’s the thing that I love to do, is to compete.”


When asked about the impact the last 48 hours had on her ability to play she said: “It isn’t easy, that’s for sure, but I knew what I had to do. I had to stay calm. I had to stay positive. I just had to deal with the things that came onto me.”


“I was actually really happy that I went through so many things knowing that I can still produce the tennis that I can and keep the focus that I can. It just motivates me to be a better player.”


The two displayed some magnificent winners in the match, especially in the critical moments at the end of the first and second sets, creating acute angles and using full power to outmaneuver the other. The telling statistic for Azarenka was her ability to hold a high first serve percentage and for Li it was her unforced error count of 57 which far outweighed her winner count of 36.


The first and last points in the opening set were a double fault. A nervy Li served first and was immediately broken to start a topsy turvy set of service breaks between the two.


Li edged ahead at the pointy end of the set 5-3 and failed when she attempted to serve it out, going down 0-40 and managing to save one break point with an excellent backhand crosscourt winner but losing the second after netting the ball. She was able to close it out though in the next game when Azarenka double faulted on set point down to gift the 30-year-old the set 6-4.


The Belarusian turned the tables in the second set by breaking Li in the first game and consolidating in the next. She really upped her power and put pressure on her opponent, running Li around the court to force her into making an error.


Serving at 1-3, 30-30 in the second Li rolled over on her ankle and was helped back to her chair by the trainer. She received a Medical Timeout to have the ankle strapped before going back on court and holding serve to trail Azarenka 2-3 in the second set. After some more breaks of serve Azarenka got ahead 5-4 and served out the set 6-4 to force a decider.


The finalists swapped breaks to open the final set and as Li held serve for 2-1 a nine minute delay arrived for the Australia Day fireworks. At the resumption of play Li rolled over on her ankle for a second time and hit her head on the ground. She received a second Medical Timeout to check for concussion but she appeared to be fine and continued to play.


Azarenka then applied the pressure to run the battered Li around the court and force a break of serve in the fifth game to lead 3-2. She again broke while leading 5-3 after Li sent her forehand long on championship point down.


Azarenka was very emotional after the match and was asked if defending the title was more special than winning it for the first time.


“I don’t know. It’s a completely different mix of feelings. This one is way more emotional. It’s gonna be extra special for me, for sure. I never compare my wins or losses ever in any tournaments. It’s just a matter of the feeling that you get, things you’ve been through, because you’re the only one who knows what you’ve been going through these two weeks.”


With the win Azarenka becomes just the fifth active player to win multiple Grand Slam titles along with Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova.


Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.


Controversial Azarenka Advances into Final Over Stephens

Victoria Azarenka

By Jaclyn Stacey

(January 24, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Victoria Azarenka halted the absorbing run of young American Sloane Stephens in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Thursday, defeating her 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and 41 minutes in the notorious Melbourne heat.


Stephens had been riding on a high after shocking the tennis world on Wednesday by defeating 15-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Against Azarenka she didn’t play badly but was simply overpowered by the world No. 1 and hit too many unforced errors.


Azarenka raced to a 6-1 first set lead in the match by breaking the young American in the first, fifth and seventh games of the set.


The second set was a much more competitive affair as Stephens kept up with the world No. 1 early on. The two swapped breaks on several occasions before Azarenka managed to get ahead 5-3.


Azarenka attempted to serve for the match in the next game but squandered five match point opportunities. Stephens capitalized on her third break point opportunity in the game by hitting a striking forehand to level the match.


Azarenka then called for the trainer and was taken off the court for a controversial medical time out. When she came back on court it was Stephens who was having trouble closing a game and made a backhand unforced error on match point down to give Azarenka the spot in the final.


In the on court interview Azarenka gave the impression that she had taken the medical time out in the second set due to a panic attack. She refuted the comments in her press conference.


“You know what, I think I just really misunderstood what she asked me because the question was I had few difficulties and why I went off.  I completely thought of a different thing, why I couldn’t close out of match, you know, that I had few difficulties. So I understand the whole situation right now, but it just really simple misunderstanding of a question. I guess it was my bad.”


“I mean, I’m experienced enough to go over those emotions.  But when you cannot breathe, when something’s really blocking you, the stress, that was the stress I was talking about. I just couldn’t realize what was going on with me.”


“I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t swing. I think it was pretty obvious that my shots were a little bit different. “


“Because as the trainer explained to me and the doctor explained to me after, when the rib blocks, it blocks your diaphragm and you can’t breathe.  I’m not a doctor to explain that.”


Azarenka keeps her title defense on track with the win and will face an in-form Li Na in the final on Saturday.


“I think she’s in incredible form right now really. You know, in the finals anything can happen. It looks like she improved a lot. Will be a tough match, so I’m really looking forward to it.”


Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.


Azarenka Continues Title Defense, Advances to Semifinals at Australian Open

Victoria Azarenka

By Jaclyn Stacey

(January 23, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – World No. 1  Victoria Azarenka kept her title defense on track on Wednesday at Melbourne Park, progressing to the semifinals of the Australian Open with a 7-5 6-1 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova.


It was an enthralling encounter between the world No. 1 and the two-time grand slam champion as they went toe for toe in the 77 minute opening set. Kuznetsova got her nose in front early to lead 4-1 before Azarenka charged back and was able to break Kuznetsova on set point to go up one set 7-5.


The second set began with the women swapping breaks in the first three games before Azarenka got a stranglehold in the fourth game by consolidating the second break to lead 3-1. From there she made very few unforced errors and raced to victory 7-5 6-1.


“I feel like at the beginning it was a little bit like play around, you know, a lot of back and forth. I think we were both producing, you know, good tennis, but I felt like she was a little bit on top of me on the important moments. I didn’t really take advantage of that, and she really did. So I felt like that was the main thing that she got that lead.”


“Then I turned it around and I took control in my hands and it was more up to me. That’s what I felt like was a turning point mentally and physically, you know, and everything else there.”


The match today was a good test for the world No. 1 heading into the semifinals.


“Yeah, I think you cannot expect to have your best tennis on every single point, on every single game. But it’s important to know that when you need it, it’s there and you can rely on that. That’s what gives you, you know, confidence. That’s what keeps you fighting all the time, that you just have to try and try and try. “


Azarenka progresses through to the semifinals where she will play Sloane Stephens who upset Serena Williams.


Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.


Azarenka in Fine Form, Meets Refreshed Kuznetsova in Quarterfinal


Azarenka smiles

By Jaclyn Stacey


(January 21, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Victoria Azarenka kept her Australian Open title defense on track on Monday after comfortably disposing of Hobart champion Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1 in 58 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.


She moves into a quarterfinal matchup with Svetlana Kuznetsova after the Russian defeated Caroline Wozniacki in a grueling encounter 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.


Kuznetsova will carry a 4-3 head-to-head lead into the match against Azarenka and will be determined after re-discovering her passion for the game during her six month hiatus from the sport in the second half of 2012 due to a knee injury.


Kuznetsova won the 2004 US Open and the 2009 French Open and was asked how it felt to make a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam on the comeback trail.


“Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s my best result. I have been two times to quarterfinals, so I’m just kind of replaying that.”


“It’s very good result for first tournament, for first Grand Slam, and especially I don’t remember when I was in quarters.”


Kuznetsova raced to a one set lead over the Dane and said she was feeling so good that she stopped and before she knew it she was into a decider and needing to fight for the match.


“I was very happy with the first set, so happy that I stopped to do anything.”


“And third set I just had to fight every ball as I could, try to still dictate, try to do the things what I was doing well.”


Kuznetsova said that the knee injury was the one of the best things to happen to her as it forced her to take time off from the tour and re-discover her passion for tennis.


“Here I think it was time to just stop. My body was not able to hold anymore, and mentally I was not there, as well.”


“Never had a thought of stopping tennis. I was just laying in bed, and I was like, thanks my knee. At least I can rest, you know.”


“But anyway, I had time home and just refresh my mind, and then I just understood that I want to play this game. I mean, I always loved it, but I wanted to have this desire to bring me back; this is what happened.”


Kuznetsova said that her quarterfinal opponent will be tough to beat, saying that the Belarusian is a more complete player and has been able to rein in her emotions in the big points of a match.


“But, I mean, she’s tough; she’s No. 1; I have nothing to lose; she has all the pressure. I know I got the game to give her some problems, and I will just do my best and just try to enjoy it.”


Azarenka knows how hard it will be to take on Kuznetsova and said, “I think it’s going to be very tough match. I can see Sveta came back much fresher, much stronger. She knows how to handle big stages, big tournaments. She’s a Grand Slam champion, as well.”


Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.