Victoria Azarenka, the No. 4 ranked player in the world, lost in straight sets on Friday night in her first match in over a month after suffering an injury to her left foot.
Azarenka fell 6-0, 7-6 to Lauren Davis in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, looking rather uncomfortable and visibly frustrated throughout the match, an indication that Victoria may have returned prematurely. Azarenka commented on the difficulties she experienced during the match:
“Basically, all I had was my fighting spirit,” Azarenka said. “When I’m on the court I try to give as much as I can, even on one leg. I try to do my best in tough situations. That’s part of our job.”
Azarenka sustained the left foot injury shortly before the Australian Open, but decided to gut it out, playing despite the pain and making it to the quarterfinals before falling to Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets. Victoria was required to wear a protective boot on the injured foot for several weeks after the Australian Open, a major she has won twice previously. Azarenka resumed her practice schedule only a week prior to Indian Wells, and the rust and discomfort were evident as she struggled throughout her match with Davis.
Azarenka was apparently conscious of the possibility that she was not ready to play due to the lingering effects of the injury, even acknowledging some doubts in comments made before the tournament:
“I want to do the best I can,” Azarenka explained. “What I expect for myself is to fight for every ball. The rest is a little bit of an unknown for me right now. The first match is going to happen. I’m going to go out there and I’m going to play. The most important thing for me is that my foot feels good. The rest you can practice it, you can get better at it, and I’m not worried about it.”
This statement did not exactly inspire confidence in her prospects, but Azarenka did put forth a valiant effort in the match. Unfortunately for Victoria, the nerve damage in her foot was a problem almost from the beginning, and Azarenka did not win a game in the first set. She did fight back to force a tiebreaker in the second set before finally succumbing to Davis. The fact that Azarenka was able to even finish the match is a testament to her courage, although she did suggest afterwards that her return may have been early in hindsight.
The next tournament on the schedule for Victoria is the Sony Open, but at this time it is unclear if Azarenka will be able to compete.