By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, Jan 24 (Reuters) - A gracious Sloane Stephens said Victoria Azarenka's lengthy medical time-out had not been a factor in her Australian Open semi-final loss on Thursday.
World number one Azarenka won 6-1 6-4 but attracted accusations of gamesmanship from former tennis players and pundits for leaving the court for nearly 10 minutes after blowing five match points.
American Stephens declined to question Azarenka's motives and told reporters she thought it had been a "routine" medical timeout.
"It was just something else but it didn't affect anything, I don't think.
"Like if it was one of my friends, I would say, 'Oh, my God, that sounds like a PP', which is a personal problem. Other than that, it's just unfortunate."
Azarenka returned to the court to seal the sixth match point and told a courtside interviewer that she had nearly suffered the "choke of the year" and that "nerves got into me".
She later told reporters that she was forced to go off to have treatment on a displaced rib that had caused her breathing difficulties.
Stephens, who defeated an injury-hampered Serena Williams in a stunning quarter-final upset, said she and Azarenka were good friends and that she hoped the Belarussian would go on to win the title.
"I love Vika and we share the same agent. We actually are pretty good friends. I'm sure I'll see her and we'll talk about it," she said. (Editing by Clare Fallon)