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Luke Pentony at Melbourne Park

Victoria Azarenka sympathises with Novak Djokovic after revealing 10-year anxiety struggle

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka says she has sympathy for Novak Djokovic after he hit out about speculation surrounding his injury.

After beating Alex de Minaur in the fourth round on Monday night, Djokovic reportedly told Serbian media he had been unfairly treated, with claims his hamstring injury was not as severe as he had made out.

Azarenka, speaking after booking a semifinal berth with a straight-sets win over world number three Jessica Pegula, said she understood what Djokovic was going through.

She cited the controversy that followed her victory over Sloane Stephens in the 2013 Australian Open semifinals.

After wasting five match points when serving at 5-3 in the second set against Stephens, Azarenka took a medical timeout to receive treatment for what she described as a rib injury.

The match was delayed for almost 10 minutes and after resuming, Azarenka broke Stephens's serve to win 6-1, 6-4.

Facing the media after the match at the time, Azarenka vehemently defended the move amid suggestions she used the medical timeout to break Stephens's concentration as an act of gamesmanship.

Azarenka went on to win the final and claim her second consecutive Australian Open.

The former world number one said it took her a decade to recover emotionally from what she felt was unfair media scrutiny.

"It was one of the worst things that I've ever gone through in my professional career," Azarenka said following her win over Pegula on Tuesday night.

"The way I was treated after that moment, the way I had to explain myself until 10:30pm at night because people didn't want to believe me."

Azarenka said she understood Djokovic's frustration as he rejected claims he was exaggerating his injury.

"I actually can resonate what Novak said the other day," she said.

"There is sometimes like, I don't know, [this] incredible desire for a villain and a hero story that has to be written.

"But we're not villains, we're not heroes, we are regular human beings that go through so many, many things.

"Assumptions and judgements, all those comments, are just shit because nobody's there to see the full story.

"It didn't matter how many times I said my story, it did not cut through … it took me 10 f***ing years to get over it. I finally am over that."

Azarenka said she battled anxiety on and off the court for a long time.

"I think it builds up until you hit kind of a pretty bad spot where nothing kind of makes sense," she said.

"You feel kind of lost. I was at the point where I couldn't find anything that [made me] feel good about myself."

Azarenka will face Elena Rybakina in the semifinals on Thursday in what will be her first appearance in the last four at Melbourne Park since her 2013 tournament win.

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