PARIS (Reuters) - At 6-7 0-4 and break point down during her first-round match at the French Open, Victoria Azarenka briefly turned down the volume on her ear-splitting shrieks that could be heard all the way down from Roland Garros to the Champs Elysees.
That was the moment when the world number one started thinking about the 3pm flight home to Minsk she could catch on Tuesday.
It was the moment when she was five points away from becoming the first women’s top seed to lose in the first round of the claycourt slam.
It was also the moment when it dawned on her that she was no longer a tennis wannabe but was ranked on top of the world.
“Before maybe I would just give up and go home. I was kind of thinking there was a flight straight to Minsk around 3:00 tomorrow so I could catch that, but I didn’t want to leave too soon,” Azarenka told reporters after her narrow 6-7 6-4 6-2 win against little-known Italian Alberta Brianti.
After being a whisker away from falling at the first hurdle, Azarenka’s game, and her wails, quickly gathered momentum.
The Belarussian deafened her opponent into submission as Brianti meekly surrendered six games in a row before bowing out with barely a whimper in the third set.
Azarenka, who struggles to keep a lid on her bubbling emotions, admitted her mind was racing as she stood five points from an early exit.
”There was a mix of things (going through my head),“ she said. ”Sometimes I felt it was not my day. Sometimes I thought, yeah, maybe I still fight, I still have a chance. Sometimes it was like, you know what? Forget it. I don’t want to do it.
“But the important thing in that really miserable moment, I stayed strong and I just went for my shots. I just went for what I had to do, and I didn’t do before.”
She certainly went for her shots but there was nothing pretty about the Australian Open champion’s game on Monday.
After piling up 60 unforced errors and whipping up a mini dust storm by slamming her racket on to the red dirt, she was unrepentant.
“I manage to go through those 60 mistakes and still win the match. I think that’s pretty good statistics,” she said.
”If it would be 60 winners and I would lose that match... that would suck a little bit more.
“Bad days happen. The important thing is how I come out of it.”
Writing by Pritha Sarkar, additional reporting by Clare Fallon, editing by Ed Osmond