The injury bug has bitten Belarus, but this bite may have serious repercussions.
Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka did not play in Saturday’s Fed Cup matchup with Team USA due to tightness in her lower back.
Just one week after Azarenka embarrassed Maria Sharapova to capture the No. 1 overall ranking, the title may be up for the taking. If Azarenka misses significant time, the door could be left open for No. 2-ranked Petra Kvitova.
While Azarenka sat on the bench, Kvitova won her 26th straight indoor game, defeating Julia Goerges and helping the Czech Republic to a 2-0 lead in its own Fed Cup matchup.
Although Azarenka’s injury does not appear to be serious, it is something that has bothered her in the past.
“It has been a while and I have been trying to take [the injury] day by day,” Azarenka said. “I had the pain since the Australian Open and was hoping to recover, but did not have enough time with all the flying I did.”
Belarus isn’t the only squad upset over Azarenka’s injury. Team USA’s Serena Williams is finally back on the court after being plagued with injuries, and she would have loved to have faced the tennis world’s top female.
“I honestly want to play her.” Williams said. “I think it would be fun for me and for her and for the crowd, more than anything.”
Although it seems as though Azarenka will be sidelined for Sunday’s deciding matches against the USA, Belarus captain Tatiana Poutchek isn’t ruling her out yet.
“We didn’t make that decision yet because she had treatment the whole day [Saturday],” Poutchek said. “She was trying with her physio to do the best they can. So we’ll see [Sunday] morning.”
Perhaps the biggest benefactor of Azarenka’s injury was Team USA youngster Christina McHale. McHale was slated to face the world’s No. 1-ranked female heading into the Cup, but instead was matched up with Anastasiya Yakimova. Despite the clear drop-off in talent, McHale kept a balanced mind-set.
“I didn’t really try to think about it too much.” said McHale, who defeated Yakimova 6-0, 6-4 to give the United States a 1-0 advantage over Belarus. “I still had to play a tough opponent. I just kept my same routines and my same mentality.”
Despite McHale’s diplomacy, the U.S. caught a break by avoiding Azarenka on the first day of Fed Cup action. She has won all 12 of her matches so far in 2012 and is expected to win a lot more, as long as she can get healthy and stay healthy.
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