Victoria Azarenka lost to Ekaterina Makarova in Wednesday's quarterfinal match, her PR representative informed the press that Azarenka had battled food poisoning on her day off. "No excuses," he added, as he also tweeted the news.Shortly after
— B1PR (@b1pr) September 3, 2014
Asked about the food poisoning in her press conference, Azarenka was not interested in talking.
"You know what? I don't really want to talk about it. I just, you know, want to give credit to my opponent. She played really well today," she said, looking annoyed by the question. "Am I disappointed? Yes, I'm disappointed. But I feel like I tried my best with whatever I had. But, you know, I just want to wish her good luck. That's it. I'm out of the tournament."
A heavy silence fell over the room, broken only by a few reporters still walking in and taking their seats. Azarenka looked around as if challenging everyone to ask the next question. Finally, a hand went up.
"How would you describe the luck that you have had this year?" asked a reporter. He didn't specify whether he was asking the two-time U.S. Open runner-up to speak about the food poisoning or the injuries she's faced this year. Azarenka missed three months with a left foot injury, then injured her right knee in a first-round win at Wimbledon. Her knee continued to flare up through the middle of August, forcing her to withdraw from tournaments. Sidelined by these injuries, this is the first season since 2008 that the former world No. 1 hasn't won at least two events.
Again, Azarenka shot him down.
"I don't care. I mean, it's not luck. It's nothing. It's just circumstances that you have to deal with and something that comes up and you deal with it," she said. "I had to deal with it today, and, you know, as I said, I did my best with what I could today. Can I play better? Absolutely."
She went on to say that she can take positives from the match and her overall performance here. For the most part, though, she was focused on giving credit to today's winner.
"She definitely stepped it up. She was really consistent. You know, as I said, she deserves to win, and I wish her good luck," she said of Makarova.
When one more reporter, who'd walked in late, tried the food poisoning angle, she had enough.
"Guys, I'm not going to make excuses for myself," Azarenka said. "You can ask me 20 times the same question. I'm not going to make any excuses today. As I said, I did the best I could today. I want to give full credit to my opponent. She deserves to win. She played much better than me today. That's it."
In beating Azarenka 6-4, 6-2, Makarova becomes the second semifinalist to advance without dropping a set in the first five rounds, joining Shuai Peng. This is the second consecutive year Makarova has advanced to the quarterfinal here, and the first time in her career that the 26-year-old Russian has made it to at least the third round of all four Grand Slam events.
"It's not hit me yet, I think. I am feeling the same like the matches before," Makarova said in her press conference. "Of course I'm happy that I'm came through, finally through the quarters and I'm in semis now. Today was a great, tough match. ... I'm really happy that I came through."
She later credited her quarterfinal appearence at this year's Wimbledon with giving her confidence coming into New York.
"I felt that I'm ready," she said. "I'm feeling good, my game, my mentality ahead, you know, and believe in myself. I was feeling that I can do more than quarter."
Now, she has, and, as one reporter sheepishly admitted, not many Americans know much about her. With that, the rest of the press conference felt a bit like a getting-to-know-you session.
What is her preferred nickname? Kate. Why? Because in Russia, she goes by Katya, but she doesn't like how foreign reporters pronounce it. Kate is easier.
Who knows her better than anyone? Her coach.
Who does she most admire?Anastasia Myskina.
"I'm really happy that she finished the career and I started the career and that we are not really competing. She's still the idol for me," she said.
She hopes to become a mother like Myskina, but doesn't know if she'll become a commentator or coach.
As the moderator tried to end the session, reporters wanted to know how she pronounces her last name. Is it the same as "Macarena," the song that is played throughout the stadium after she wins? Speaking of, did she know how to do the Macarena? She does. Would she do it? No, but maybe she'll do it if she wins.
For any more than that, we'll have to wait until after the U.S. Open wraps up.
"I think I'm trying to stay in the shade, you know, a little bit, to be in my world. I'm not using that much like social networks. Yeah, I can say that I'm maybe closed a little bit," she said.
It doesn't mean she's not enjoying the atmosphere. She just is holding her cards close to her chest, at least for now.
Makarova will play the winner of tonight's quarterfinal match between No. 1 Serena Williams and 11th-seeded Flavia Pennetta. Asked how she feels about playing Williams, Makarova reminded the media that the match has yet to be played.
"She didn't win actually yet, so I think tonight will be interesting match. Pennetta [is] also really, like, ready for this match, for fight. I think so," she said. "So I will watch them definitely, you know, [who's] gonna win. I just want to fight."