Tennis star Azarenka wants to explore, taste HCMC

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Belarusian sensation gives young fans a motivational talk about determination in the face of adversity


  (L-R) Feliciano Lopez, Victoria Azarenka, Dominika Cibulkova and Gilles Simon pose at a press conference in Ho Chi Minh City on September 19

The world's top female tennis player Victoria Azarenka says she's not in Vietnam only for the Heineken Stars tournament Thursday. She's also here to see Ho Chi Minh City.

The Belarusian 23-year-old told the media and fans at a press conference she was ready to experience the sights, sounds and, most importantly, the flavors of Ho Chi Minh City.

"This is the first time I've come to your country. I don't have much time, but I will arrange to go around the city for a visit tomorrow morning before participating in the competition in the evening.

"I've heard a lot about Vietnam, especially Ho Chi Minh City. It is not the capital but it is the country's biggest city. Also, I know Vietnam has many delicious dishes, and I've already enjoyed pho."

No regrets, no quitting

Asked about her loss to Serena Williams in the women's singles final at the US Open earlier this month, Azarenka said the American played excellently but she doesn't regret a thing.

 "I don't allow myself to regret what is in the past. Instead, I focus on practicing to improve myself. I believe I'll play better when I play Serena again," Azarenka said.

Perhaps her attitude comes from having braved the ups and downs of a rocky career thus far.

Azarenka said there were several times in her life in which she wanted to quit tennis.

When she was 14 playing abroad for the first time in Spain, the climate was a shock and she got homesick and wanted to quit, she said.

But she played on.

In 2009 she had injury after injury and fell dramatically in the world rankings. She again wanted to quit. But she changed her mind and played on.

She told the press conference that quitting would have been the one regret of her life.

Be cool, stay in school

Azarenka's determination has paid off to the tune of 12 championships, including at the Australian Open this year.

But she said that even at the most successful points in her career, she never thought of quitting school and she told young Vietnamese players that they should always prioritize their education over sports.

"School education is very useful for tennis players, especially when they retire. I've thought of quitting tennis but never thought of quitting school."

Azarenka said Vietnam should create the best conditions for young Vietnamese tennis players to go to school while having enough time to nurture their passion for tennis.

Asked about her future plans, the Belarusian said she was going to try to stay number one as long as she could and do her best to prepare for the next four Grand Slam contests: the Australian Open, the French Open, the US Open and Wimbledon.

After the Heineken Stars in Ho Chi Minh City, Azarenka will fly to Tokyo for the Tokyo Open.

The Heineken Stars also features world's No.13 women's player Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, world No.13 men's player, Frenchman Gilles Simon, and men's world No.31 Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

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