An overzealous pedicurist has been able to do what few players could in 2012 – stop world tennis No.1 Victoria Azarenka.
In a disruption to her Australian Open title defence plans, Azarenka pulled out of the Brisbane International with a toe infection just half an hour before her scheduled Friday night semi-final with world No.3 Serena Williams.
The Belarusian said her toe had become infected after a pedicurist “cut a bit too much” nail, requiring minor surgery on Thursday.
Reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion Williams will take on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Saturday night’s decider after the Russian world No.36 downed lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 4-6 6-1 6-2 on Friday night.
Azarenka, 23, began her dominant 2012 with 26 straight wins – the best season start since 1997 that included her maiden grand slam title in Melbourne.
However, she will be spending some of her lead-up to this year’s Australian Open cooling her heels – and right big toe – after a pedicure went awry.
But she expected to be back on court within days.
“Actually the doctor said it happens a lot,” Azarenka said of her problem.
“It had never happened to me before so it’s something that I am definitely going to prevent for the next time.”
Azarenka said she had been nursing the complaint for 10 days, using medication and taping, while romping into a much-anticipated semi-final showdown with 15-time grand slam winner Williams without dropping a set and conceding just seven games.
“I tried everything but it’s just been getting worse,” she said.
“It’s unfortunate but I made this decision so I could have a longer time to recover (ahead of the Australian Open).
“It’s important that the procedure has been done and the worst already passed by – I just need some time to get better.”
Azarenka will seek to repeat her 2012 heroics which included her Australian Open success, the world No.1 ranking, London Olympic gold and single season earnings of almost $8 million.
Williams – who has won 33 of her 34 matches since the 2012 French Open – said she could understand Azarenka’s decision.
“It’s tough. But as the defending champion, you have to do the best you can before such a big tournament,” said Williams who withdrew from last year’s Brisbane International with an ankle complaint.
Azarenka is the second big name to pull out of this year’s Brisbane event following French Open champion Maria Sharapova (collarbone).
World No.116 Tsurenko replaced Sharapova in the draw and made the most of her second chance since losing in the final round of Brisbane qualifying, ensuring her biggest pay cheque to date.
Tsurenko, 23, received $US46,487 ($A44,613) as a Brisbane semi-finalist – her previous biggest pay day was $US35,181 ($A33,763) after getting into the 2012 Australian Open second round.