Victoria Azarenka only needed to hold serve twice to knock world #1 Naomi Osaka out of the French Open and bring her tennis comeback onto legitimate ground. Instead, she double-faulted. Azarenka would go on to lose the set and the match, 6-4 5-7 3-6. She committed five double faults in the match compared with Osaka’s one, only to afterwards complain that it was Osaka who should’ve been called for a second one.
But that’s faulty logic.
The serve has long been a sticking point for the hard-hitting Belarusian. As strong player standing 6’0″ tall, that should not be the case. Rather, her serve is an area of the game where she should excel. But despite a lengthy professional career, it’s a problem area she is yet to fix. One of the most crushing examples of Azarenka’s double fault problems was a famous match at the 2015 Madrid Open where she held triple match point on her serve against Serena Williams. She lost that game with three double faults and yes, lost the match.
Today in her post-match presser, Azarenka bristled at being asked about what to do on her second serve against a blistering returner like Osaka– and that contributed to her double faults. She answered that it wasn’t just her– anyone would struggle with that, and added, “Maybe you could hit a better second serve.”
It’s not the right attitude. For all the talk about motherhood making her more relaxed on court and all the positivity surrounding tough losses like this one, Azarenka must look inward– and possibly get more creative in her approach to her serve.
In tennis, the serve is almost as multi-layered as the game itself. You don’t have to be a power-server to be a great server. Varied combinations of speed, slice, topspin, placement and second-flight-of-the-ball trajectories on both first and second serves yield infinite possibilities for how to serve successfully.
Azarenka said today she very much enjoys the process of improving her game. If that’s truly the case, bringing in a specialist to help her with her serve might be a viable approach. “My game is there. Very close, but I still have things to work on,” she said. “I didn’t push through enough,” Azarenka added about the match against Osaka. Her serve problems are something she must push through within her game as well.
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