SONY ERICSSON OPEN
Azarenka Joins Fight Club
by Matt Fitzgerald|
Victoria Azarenka has dominated women’s tennis thus far in 2012, delivering blow after blow against each of her challengers to begin the season with a blistering 23-match win streak.
The Belarusian knockout picked up her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and the WTA No. 1 ranking, establishing herself as the player to beat at this year’s Sony Ericsson Open.
The opportunity to successfully defend a title for the first time in her career in Miami, coupled with her current run of form are certainly motivating factors for Azarenka, but the 22 year old gained an additional source of competitive fire on Wednesday after meeting Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) star Rashad Evans.
“It was a great experience to meet Rashad. He was really nice, but I’m sure he’s a little bit meaner in the cage,” said Azarenka. “He’s a great guy and for me, it was a great experience to meet somebody from a different field completely. I invited him to the tennis so hopefully he can come and cheer me on.”
Evans was excited to get together with Azarenka, revealing to SonyEricssonOpen.com, “I love women’s tennis. It dominates men’s tennis in my opinion. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the women who go out there and compete, because you know when they’re out there, they are giving it their all. When you hear them go, ‘ahhhhh!’ and ‘ahhh!’, you know they’re giving it everything they got.”
The 32 year old, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion, demonstrated the basics of his sport, engaging in playful combat with Azarenka.
“It was cool to show her some moves as I could tell she was genuinely interested,” Evans said. “She’s pretty smart with picking up concepts, so it wouldn’t be hard for her to learn some stuff and do this for real.”
Ranked No. 2 in his classification, Evans will take on Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight title in April at the Philips Arena in Atlanta. He highlighted a resemblance in pressure between the two sports.
“You have your coaches, but when you go out there, for the most part, everything falls on how you’re going to perform on game day,” said Evans. “Tennis players go through the same feeling, that anxiety of not wanting to lose. They have that feeling inside when they go up against an opponent. And I respect that a lot.”
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