Self-described “obnoxious soccer mom” Victoria Azarenka was ordered to take off her Paris Saint-Germain shirt at the Australian Open on Thursday before bowing out of the Grand Slam with a straight sets defeat by Elena Rybakina in the semifinals.
The 33-year-old Belarusian twice champion has worn shirts showing support for French soccer champions PSG at the tournament and as a gesture to her six-year-old son Leo, who is also a big fan of the Paris club.
After an exchange of words with the chair umpire at Rod Laver Arena, Azarenka took off the PSG shirt before warming up in her regular kit against Rybakina.
“They told me to take it off twice because I had a different shirt,” the 22nd seed told reporters after losing 7-6(4) 6-3 to Kazakh Rybakina.
“I think it’s the issue with the sponsorships. I guess the logos are too big ... I know that I’m not allowed to play in that. I knew those type of things.
“But I can still step on the court in what I want to step on the court. I do it for my own reasons.
“My son wore the white jersey today to his practice, and I tried to wear a white jersey to my match but couldn’t. So that’s okay.”
That was the lesser of two disappointments for the Belarusian on Thursday, as Azarenka’s bid for a third title at Melbourne Park ended with some regret at her missed chances against 22nd seed Rybakina.
The 2012 and 2013 champion gave up a break in the first set and converted only three out of eight break points in the match.
Up 0-40 on Rybakina’s serve at 5-5 in the first set, Azarenka could not make the Kazakh pay and never had another look after that as her error count grew and her opponent’s confidence rose.
“I’m proud of myself how I fought and I tried, but just was not -- tennis-wise I felt like (I) just wasn’t there, especially in the important moments when I kept creating those opportunities,” said Azarenka.
“Not a great feeling right now to digest.
“But give me a couple of hours and I can have probably a better outlook on this month in Australia. I look forward to, throughout the year, what I can do.”