Sumyk defends his star's teary triumph
Happy days ... Victoria Azarenka of Belarus celebrates with coach Sam Sumyk. Photo: Reuters
VICTORIA AZARENKA'S coach Sam Sumyk was proud, blunt, and rather angry. ''This is a trophy that she suffered to win, so maybe that explained the tears,'' said the Frenchman, who has coached Azarenka to consecutive Australian Open titles, the second one amid far more challenging circumstances.
''The parameters are completely different. The whole thing is completely different. This one she really suffered to get, so, I don't know, it feels good. I don't think that she felt at her best and played her best tennis this whole two weeks. I know people are gonna say 'it's nuts, she won the trophy, blah, blah, blah'. OK, I understand that, but it's a fantastic feeling to win it this way. And the last couple of days were pretty rough, so I believe she deserve it.
''She deserve it because I know how hard she works, how hard she wants it, how tough she is, etc etc, so I believe that this one nobody can take it away from her.''
Of Azarenka's mental strength, Sumyk said: ''I knew that already. I know how tough she is. I don't need to wait today to understand that. I know that since a long time.''
The coach was highly critical of the media coverage of Azarenka's medical time-out in her semi-final against Sloane Stephens. ''You're sharks, guys. It's tough,'' he also said, post-match, to a small group of reporters. ''When you're after something, your story, when there is no story, you're pretty good, so it's tough. Everybody has to handle it the best way possible. I understand you have to do your job, but sometimes you can maybe do it a little bit more … I don't know, I don't have the right word, I don't want to be mean.
''She's 23 years old, guys, come on … I think the journalists should take some lessons out of this - not necessarily the athletes. Let's try to be fair here, let's try to say everybody should take a good lesson out of it.''
Azarenka and Sumyk embraced in the hallway underneath Melbourne Park, Azarenka carrying the trophy to her TV interview, and acknowledging her coach's role in the 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 defeat of an equally tearful Li Na, the almost 31-year-old who fell twice while attempting to become the oldest Australian Open champion.
The two-time champion later described her emotions as ''relief, joy, everything there, you never know how you are going to react, and you are just so happy. It's definitely been really tough for me these whole two weeks. Unfortunately you have to go through some rough patches to achieve great things and that's why it makes it for me so special to know that I went through that and I'm still able to kiss that beautiful trophy.''
Li, meanwhile, fell twice during the eventful two-hour, 40-minute match, having joked to the physio beforehand that she might call her. But she hastened to add that her medical time-outs were authentic.
Li said she was bemused at her falls. ''After the match, I was feeling like, how many years I didn't falling down in the court?'' she said. ''I mean, it was amazing today. What are you doing on the court, like juniors?'' Asked why she had fallen, she replied: ''Because I'm stupid!''
She said neither fall had affected her other than momentarily.
''Maybe just like five second I was feeling little bit,'' she said. In the second tumble, she hit her head on the court. ''Two seconds, I couldn't really see anything. It was totally black,'' she said. ''The physio said: focus on my finger. I was start laughing. I was thinking, this is tennis court, not like hospital!
''Maybe if I'm not falling down, it's another story. You never know. But the truth, I was falling down, so nothing can change. I think today in important games she was play better than me, so that's why she can win the title.
''Yeah, of course a little bit sad when I lost to the final. But if looking beginning of the year until now, I still have to say I am proud for myself.''
Li said she was grateful for the one-sided crowd support. ''I was, oh, looks like China Open,'' she said. She said this loss hurt no more, but no less, than the one to Kim Clijsters in this final two years ago. ''Because I'm not falling down two years ago, right [laughter]?'' she said. ''It's different story. I really feeling, I wish I can win the title, because this my favourite grand slam.''
Li said that under the tuition of Carlos Rodriguez, she was enjoying her tennis again. ''At least today, I falling down, I still can laughing,'' she said. ''I was only one player can do that on the court when it was totally black.''
Li is almost 31, but sees no limit to her career yet. ''When I think I couldn't play, I will stop,'' she said.