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Tournament director defends Azarenka

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Benjamin Preiss

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Aus Open Day 13: Li v Azarenka women's final

Following Victoria Azarenka's controversial medical time-out on Thursday, it's likely Li Na will be the crowd favourite in their women's final, says chief tennis writer Linda Pearce.

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The Australian Open boss has defended world No.1 Victoria Azarenka after she was widely criticised for taking an extended medical break at a crucial moment in a semi final.

Azarenka won the match against American Sloane Stephens after leaving the court for what sounded like severe nervousness. In an on-court interview Azarenka said: "nerves got to me, for sure".

She had left the court with the score at 5-4 in the second set.

Craig Tiley.

Craig Tiley. Photo: Getty Images

But tournament director Craig Tiley said Azarenka had received treatment for a rib injury and then on her knee, "which she had tweaked a little bit in the second set".

"In this instance, the doctor confirmed that he did treat the rib, he did treat the knee, and once he made that assessment, she was able and ready to continue to play. On our initial assessment on this, and also on advice from the doctor, it's correct," he said.

Last night Azarenka's name was trending on Twitter where she was accused of "gamesmanship". She will defend her Australian Open title on Saturday.

In a post-match interview Azarenka said she had misunderstood the question in the previous interview on court. She said she was forced to leave the court because of a back problem.

"I had to unlock my rib, which was causing my back problem. You know, the trainer said, we have to go off court to treat that. I just didn't really want to take off my dress on the court," she said, according to a transcript of the interview.

However, Azarenka admitted that she was "really panicking" because she could not breathe. "I couldn't breathe. I couldn't swing. I think it was pretty obvious that my shots were a little bit different."

Mr Tiley said Australian Open staff had handled the situation appropriately. "Certainly we have a grand slam supervisor on every court and it's their job to ensure that the rules are upheld and the spirit of the game is adhered to, and in this case our supervisor assessed that, and together with the trainer and the medical practitioner, they were satisfied that it was," he said.

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Following Victoria Azarenka's controversial medical time-out on Thursday, it's likely Li Na will be the crowd favourite in their women's final, says chief tennis writer Linda Pearce.

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