Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Last week we talked about Hungarian hammer Agnes Szavay. This week we're going to discuss another very promising teen on the WTA Tour -- Belarus' Victoria Azarenka.
The 18-year-old Azarenka was just one of several upcoming stars that caught the attention of the tennis world at the 2007 U.S. Open. She rolled all the way into the fourth round before giving in to former champion and eventual runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Among the rising Belarusian's three victories in the Big Apple was a big three-set, come-from-behind one against former world No. 1 stalwart Martina Hingis in the third round.
Azarenka, who was born in Minsk, resides in Arizona and trains in Spain, reached at least the third round in three of the four majors this year, with Roland Garros (1st round) marking her only early exit at an '07 Slam. As a matter of fact, dating back to last year's U.S. Open, the talented teen has reached at least the third round in four of her last five majors.
As a 16-year-old, the impressive Azarenka became the junior world champion in 2005, capturing the Aussie and U.S. Open titles that year, not to mention three quarters of the junior Grand Slam doubles championships. She became the first-ever Belarusian player to win the junior world crown, going a combined 50-3 in singles and doubles in '05.
The 5-foot-10 Azarenka officially joined the professional ranks back in 2003 and is still looking for her first WTA singles title. She does own a doubles championship on the circuit and was a mixed doubles winner at the 2007 U.S. Open, where she paired with doubles specialist, and fellow Belarusian, Max Mirnyi to claim the title. Azarenka and Mirnyi posted a runner-up mixed finish at this year's Aussie Open.
The former junior world champion Azarenka reached a pair of WTA Tour finals in 2007.
Azarenka was a two-time singles finalist in '07, finishing as the runner-up to German Greta Arn on red clay in Estoril in her first-ever WTA final and France's Pauline Parmentier on a hardcourt finale in Tashkent. Her biggest wins of the season came against the since-retired Hingis in New York, Russian superstar Maria Sharapova in Moscow, Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli at the Australian Open, and former top-10 Russian star Nadia Petrova in Luxembourg. In addition to the pair of finals, Azarenka reached a semifinal in Prague and landed in quarterfinals in Los Angeles, Luxembourg and Moscow.
The 132-pound Azarenka, whose favorite shot is a robust two-handed backhand, went 34-18 for the year, one in which she opened at 96th in the world and wound up in the top 30 (currently 30th). She climbed as high as No. 26 early last month.
Azarenka's '07 prize money eclipsed $470,000 and her career earnings are just under the $640,000 mark, thanks to a 97-50 lifetime record.
Will Vicki (or do you prefer Vicky) break through with her first career singles title in 2008?
I'm almost certain of it.