Azarenka blames lack of motivation
Victoria Azarenka admitted she is struggling for motivation after her hopes of a first WTA Championships title were derailed in Istanbul.
The second seed put in an error-strewn performance to lose 6-4 6-3 to Jelena Jankovic in her second round-robin match at the Sinan Erdem Dome.
It was Azarenka's fourth defeat in five matches dating back to the US Open, and asked if she is feeling mentally fatigued, the 24-year-old said: "I think it's pretty obvious."
Jankovic was playing her first WTA Championships match in three years and her enthusiasm for the stage was in stark contrast to Azarenka's demeanour.
The Belarusian said: "Of course she was playing well. I think she's playing her best tennis right now. She's really improved a lot throughout the year.
"But I cannot sit and say that I played well and she was better today. There was a lot of mistakes - small mistakes, a little bit bigger mistakes.
"It was just so inconsistent and it just doesn't work against top players."
Azarenka has not been the same player since losing to Williams in the final of the US Open - a match where she fought back brilliantly in the second set only to fall away in the third.
"It's hard sometimes to just keep it up," she said. "I think I have been pretty much the most consistent player the last two years and sometimes things like this happen.
"It's just the bad road and I have to go through that, because it didn't happen to me in a long, long time.
"Definitely it's tough at the end of the year to play against the best players, because every match you have to go and dig deep, and sometimes your motivation is not there enough to know how deep can you dig.
"I just need to battle right now as much as I can."
Having beaten Sara Errani in her first match, Azarenka's hopes of making the semi-finals are still very much alive going into her final white group clash against Li Na on Friday.
The 24-year-old did not give the impression she thought she would beat the Chinese player, though, saying: "I have one more match so for me it's just going to be about that. Then there is a break, and 2013 will be over for me."
Jankovic has climbed from outside the top 20 at the start of the year back into the top eight, and the Serbian is understandably full of confidence.
The former world number one said: "There's no reason for me not to be confident. I believe in myself. I prepared very well. I enjoy myself.
"When you have been number one in the world - and I have beaten all these players that are here. If you can do it in the past, you can do it again."
Serena Williams remains very much the title favourite, though, and the American is the only player with two victories from two round-robin matches after notching another win against Agnieszka Radwanska.
The Pole had managed just one set against Williams in seven previous meetings, and things did not get any better as the world number one triumphed 6-2 6-4.
The scoreline was harsh on third seed Radwanska, who forced eight break points on the formidable Williams serve but could take only one.
Williams' progress from the red group is now all but assured, while Radwanska must beat Angelique Kerber on Thursday and hope other results go her way.
Williams had sympathy for Azarenka's end-of-season struggles, saying: "It's similar to having match point. It's so close but yet it's so far away.
"You have to stay focused throughout the whole ordeal. It hasn't gotten easier any year that I have played. But you've just got to decide if you want to or not.
"I'm definitely motivated. I don't want to come all this way to not do well. I have a tough draw, so I just have to do the best I can."
The first match of the day saw Li open her campaign with a 6-3 7-6 (7/5) victory over Errani, whose hopes of reaching the last four in singles are all but over.
Thursday's play pits Li against Jankovic before Radwanska takes on Kerber, while the final match of the day is the most highly-anticipated clash of the group stages between Williams and former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.