Azarenka claims first WTA title since maternity leave as Osaka withdraws from Cincinnati final

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The conclusion of the 2020 Western & Southern Open is just as bizarre as the entire week. Naomi Osaka withdrew ahead of her final against Victoria Azarenka, handing the mom on tour her first WTA title since maternity leave.

It was a much-anticipated final between two former world No.1s and two-time Grand Slam champions, but Osaka withdrew before the match-up, citing a left hamstring injury.

I pulled my left hamstring yesterday in the second set tiebreak and it has not recovered overnight as I had hoped. This has been an emotional week and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support.

Awkward things about 2020 Cincinnati

  1. The tournament was actually held in New York, at the same site as the US Open, even though we have all been calling it Cincy.
  2. In support of Black Lives Matter, Naomi Osaka pulled out before her semifinal against Elise Mertens only to be persuaded to show up in the final four the next day.
  3. The gloomy vibe of Victoria Azarenka’s trophy ceremony, mostly because she didn’t even play her final, plus she’s wearing a mask and there are no fans in the stands because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though the 2020 Western & Southern Open was very unusual, Azarenka’s triumph is by no means diminished by that and we are all very happy to see Vika do well after everything she’s been through in her personal life regarding child custody. The 59th-ranked Belarusian has now become the lowest-ranked champion in the tournament’s history and she’s ensured a rise to No.27 when the WTA rankings are updated.

Sporting Nike’s colorful Challenge Court collection, Azarenka opened her 2020 Western & Southern Open campaign with a straight-set win over No.15 seed Donna Vekic. In the second round, Azarenka fired 20 winners to just eight unforced errors to defeat Caroline Garcia, then ousted Alize Cornet in the third round to improve her record against the Frenchwoman to an impeccable 7-0, fended off four set points to take a 70-minute opening set during a quarterfinal victory over Ons Jabeur, and became the first player this week to break Johanna Konta’s serve – doing so five times – to triumph in Friday’s semifinals.

This is Azarenka’s 21st career title and 20th on hardcourts.


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