Azarenka survives scare against injured Hampton

Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:37pm EST
 
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Defending champion Victoria Azarenka survived a huge scare from an injury-hampered Jamie Hampton, coming back from a break down in the deciding set to win 6-4 4-6 6-2 and reach the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

The 63rd-ranked American winced with pain from a "messed up" back that forced her to leave the court for treatment but stunned the world number one with a barrage of forehand rockets to capture the second set and take a 2-1 lead in the third.

For a tormented Azarenka, it was a case of 'I'll have what she's having, please', as she waited in vain for the 23-year-old American to miss the lines on a sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena.

"She took a medical timeout but she rips winners all over the place. I was like 'can I have a back problem? I'm feeling great but I'm missing every shot!'" Azarenka said courtside after losing the match's winner count 41-17.

Hampton, a baseline pounder strong on both sides of the racket, has a history of back problems, and revealed she was suffering from two herniated (bulging) discs in her spinal column.

The affliction flared up at the French Open last year, leaving her unable to walk, and fears of a repeat at Melbourne Park were playing through her mind as she felt it start to pinch midway through the second set.

The pain made her try to shorten the points and go for broke against Azarenka. For nearly two sets the results were breathtaking.

"I was more focused on the cramping part of it because I have gone into a full‑body cramp before. It's very painful. I was trying to manage that," the American told reporters glumly.   Continued...

 
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus hits a return to Jamie Hampton of the U.S. during their women's singles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, January 19, 2013. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz