>> Saturday, May 19, 2012
World no. 2 Maria Sharapova slammed world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka after the latter pulled out of Rome's 2012 Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2012 after winning her first match comfortably. In a late scheduled match on Wednesday, Azarenka dominated Shahar Peer 61 62 then promptly withdrew citing a shoulder injury. In her Twitter account, Azarenka fired a couple of posts blaming WTA rules, "If WTA rules were different then I could have focused on getting healthy, but I could not afford another zero pointer on my ranking..." and "Hopefully in the future there will be more protection for players rights..."
Afer reaching the semi-finals on Friday, Sharapova took a dig at Azarenka when she said, "She is probably injured more than any other player and to be number one in the world and be able to play a full schedule... I think last year she had more retirements that anyone but played a full schedule and after two days retirement you would see her practicing and so it’s tough to know what her state is and what she is feeling."
Sharapova derided Azarenka for not withdrawing earlier if she was feeling injured. The Russian said, "Personally, if I am injured however big or small the fine is, the body is no support for me and if this is the tournament where you have to participate or get zero points but to be honest I don't really care about that because but for me the health is the most important thing. If I am healthy then I can go on court and beat someone and not go and save whatever money and I pay the fine."
Sharapova also defended the WTA tour's right to fine players who pull out of competitions. "We have a new system of new rules and mandatory tournaments and its very successful because all the top players attend and the TV and the public covers you and the fan are there is no reason whey thus style doesn't work. Sometimes all the top players are not there because some players get injured but sometimes you have to pay a little out of your pocket and not play or you do a little more media for the tournament but if you are not healthy then you are not going to play."
Lastly, Sharapova indicated that playing a smaller number of tournaments is key noting the quality trumps quantity. "I have had a similar schedule since I got on tour it has worked... I am never a player that has played more than 16 or 17 tournaments a year, whether because I wasn't healthy or not. It isn't the quantity but the quality and so if you can’t do a tournament just to get the points. I didn't change my calendar and I kept to the same".
This is not the first time that Sharapova has taken a dig of Azarenka pertaining to the Belarussian's injuries. In a match in Beijing 2009, Azarenka asked for treatment and Sharapova said to the umpire, "Is her last name Jankovic?" referring to the former no. 1's penchant for mid-match drama. More recently, when Sharapova beat Azarenka in Stuttgart, she very sarcastically mentioned Azarenka's injury in her speech noting that it was "unfortunate that Vika was extremely injured today and just couldn't really perform her best game."
Sharapova is not the only one to criticize Azarenka on how she deals with injury. In a Doha quarterfinal last February, world no. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska said she had "lost a lot of respect" for the new no. 1. Radwanska felt Azarenka made too big a show of her injury after rolling her ankle during the match.