Victoria Azarenka sympathised with Novak Djokovic as she stated tennis players are "not villains" after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time in a decade.
Azarenka beat Jessica Pegula 6-4 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday to set up a last-four meeting with Elena Rybakina.
Former world number one Azarenka came in for criticism when she took a medical timeout during her last semi-final at Melbourne Park back in 2013, delaying her match against Sloane Stephens by 10 minutes.
The Belarusian, who is now 33, returned to beat Stephens and went on to defend successfully her title.
Questions have been raised over the extent of a hamstring issue nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic has been contending with as he attempts to match Rafael Nadal's tally of 22 major triumphs this weekend.
Azarenka feels it is out of order for such suspicions to be raised by people who are not aware of the facts.
She said: "Do you know what happened 10 years ago? That's the thing.
"It was one of the worst things that I've ever gone through in my professional career, 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. I actually can resonate what Novak said the other day.
"There is sometimes 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 s*** 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.
"Actually it's funny that you're saying that because I was thinking about it. It took me 10 f****** years to get over it. I finally am over that."
153 - Victoria Azarenka has now won 153 Grand Slam main draw matches in her career - equalling Martina Hingis at the 13th place for the most Women’s Singles main draw wins in Majors in the Open Era. Ascent.@WTA_insider @WTA | #AustralianOpen #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/lXt9Q0Rwqb— OptaAce (@OptaAce) January 24, 2023
Asked to expound what the judgements or assumptions she experienced were, Azarenka said: "I've been called that I'm cheating, that I'm faking, that I was trying to throw people off their game. It's everything that is so wrong about my character if somebody actually knows me.
"At some point I've heard that she has this thing that is bad or this thing is bad, whatever. At some point you're like, 'Really? Am I?'. Those doubts starts to creep in.
"Now I just don't care. I am more and more confident in what I know about myself, and I'm at peace with that. Those comments, judgements, they're there. I notice them. But I don't care."