Sloane Stephens, a 19-year-old American, reached the semifinal of the Australian Open by defeating her idol, Serena Williams. It was the first time she reached a semifinal at a Grand Slam event ever.
In the semis Stephens met world #1 Viktoria Azarenka who cleaned Stephens's clock in the first set. Azarenka was also winning the second set until Stephens made a comeback in the 9th game to get back "on-serve" and have a chance to equal the match.
Azarenka then invoked a medical time-out. She left the court for 10 minutes, returned, and beat Stephens in the next game to end the match.
What was Azarenka's medical problem? It appears that her only real medical problem was that she had panicked. One could see that she was having trouble catching her breath, not because of any medical problem, but because the 19 year-old upstart threatened to take the match to a third set in the hot Australian sun. When asked after the match the reason for her medical time-out, Azarenka herself referred to nothing but her own panic.
Let us also remember that $1 million prize money was at stake. Sloane Stephens had already earned more money in the Australian Open by reaching the semifinals than she had won in her entire career.
Isn't part of sports the ability to maintain one's composure, not to panic, to be able to execute? Does a world #1 get time off the "calm down" and thus remove that key element from a contest?
Ordinarily, who wins the Australian Open matters only to the players and those who follow professional tennis.
But, the Australian Open has the opportunity of taking a stand for integrity. With integrity in short supply these days, it would be uplifting to see it enforced.
Azarenka should be disqualified, and should forfeit all the money she made at the Australian Open. Sloane Stephens should be advanced to the finals.
It has to start somewhere.
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