Victoria Azarenka’s injury problems resurfaced during her semi-final defeat to Li Na at the WTA Tour Championships but she refused to retire despite being in obvious discomfort.
The Chinese player surprised the odds on betfair by crushing the current world number two, Azarenka, 6-2 6-1, winning eight games in a row at one point in the encounter.
Azarenka suffered the injury midway through the first set, confirming after her exit from the tournament: “I served really hard and really locked my back. Everything just can’t move to one side. I don’t know what really happened. It was just a bad movement and everything moved, big spasm – no flexibility.
“The physio told me I’m really locked – that there’s really no structural damage, but it can’t be fixed that quickly. It was just about trying to do the most you can out there. Sometimes when I had to get off the chair it was really challenging. It’s a big mess of emotions that your mind just goes through, really.”
The 24-year-old Belarusian, who has won the last two Australian Open titles, her only two Grand Slam successes, suffered an ankle injury at the BNP Paribas Open in March that forced her to withdraw from the tournament just before a quarterfinal clash with Caroline Wozniacki.
She then suffered a knee injury during her victory against Maria Joao Koehler at Wimbledon that forced her to withdraw from the third Grand Slam of the year before her second round match against Flavia Pennetta.
Azarenka’s injury misery continued when she had to withdraw from the Rogers Cup because of a back problem but she did recover to reach the final of the US Open where she was beaten by the perennial favourite in the tennis betting, Serena Williams, in three sets.