Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerVictoria Azarenka (BLR)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Victoria Azarenka has won the women’s singles bronze medal for Belarus at the Olympic Tennis Event, following her 63 64 victory over Russia's Maria Kirilenko on Saturday.
After the disappointed of losing heavily to Serena Williams in the semifinal, Azarenka showed tremendous character by bouncing straight back to claim her first Olympic medal.
It’s also a historic moment for her country, as this is the first Olympic tennis medal for Belarus as an independent nation.
Natasha Zvereva of Belarus and Leila Meskhi of Georgia won the doubles bronze medal at Barcelona 1992, but at that Games they were both competing for the Unified Team.
Azarenka got off to the perfect start by racing into a 3-0 lead on No. 1 Court, but any hopes of an easy day at the office were quickly vanquished as Kirilenko battled back to 3-3.
That seemed to stir Azarenka into life once more and the Belarusian reeled off three straight games to clinch the first set 6-3 in 40 minutes.
The second set followed exactly the same pattern as Azarenka had one hand on the medal when she took a 3-0 lead with a double break, only for Kirilenko to fight back again to 3-3.
Azarenka broke again and this time there was no way back for Kirilenko. The world No. 1 continued to hold serve and clinched victory 63 64 with her second match point when the Russian netted a backhand. The match lasted 1 hour 28 minutes.
Emotional scenes followed for Azarenka, who was clearly moved to win an Olympic medal, even if it wasn’t the colour she had hoped for at the start of the tournament.
"It was incredible feeling, to just go out there today after tough day yesterday and to fight hard and just give it all," said Azarenka. "It was incredibly difficult physically, but I'm so proud of what I did. Emotions are overwhelming, overtaking me."
The Olympics isn’t over for Azarenka as she is still playing in the mixed doubles with Max Mirnyi. The Belarusian pair had their quarterfinal match stopped for bad light on Friday evening, so they return to finish it today.
Azarenka and Mirnyi are leading Indian duo Sania Mirza and Leander Paes 7-5 3-2 when they return to the court, with the winner facing Americans Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan in the semifinals later on Saturday.
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