Former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka is set to return to grand slam tennis next month after being awarded a wildcard for the Australian Open.
Azarenka, who is a two-time winner in Melbourne, hasn’t played on the tour since Wimbledon and has only participated in two tournaments in 2017. Winning four out of six main draw matches played. Her season was forced to come to an early end due to an ongoing custody battle. The Belarusian gave birth to a baby boy Called Leo in December 2016. Her former partner, Billy McKeague, launched a legal battle earlier in the year.
Under the terms of the ongoing dispute, the courts have ruled Leo is not allowed to leave California until the case is resolved. Meaning that Azarenka isn’t allowed to travel to tournaments without her son. Resulting in her absence from the tour in recent months.
News of Azarenka’s wildcard for Melbourne was confirmed by The New York Times. The tournament director of the Australian Open, Craig Tiley, has stressed that he wants to support the two-time champion, who has slipped down to 210th in the world.
“Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her, and we have reached out to offer any support we can,” said Tiley.
It is unclear if the custody dispute will be resolved before the start of the new season. If it isn’t, Azarenka will be forced to play at the major with Leo staying in America. Despite the issue, she appears to pressing ahead with her preparations for the new season. Azarenka has also been given a wildcard for the ASB Classic in Auckland, which will take place during the first week of January.
“I am very much looking forward to getting back on the court to compete in January and I can’t think of a better place to start the 2018 season than in Auckland.” She said last month.
Azarenka will return to the tour with a new team, which is yet to be confirmed. Recently, she parted ways with Coach Michael Joyce. Joyce is now working with British No.1 Johanna Konta. Another recent departure was her former fitness coach Ashcon Rezazadeh.