One of the most interesting players to watch at Wimbledon this year will be former world number one Victoria Azarenka, who is returning to the Grand Slam stage following the birth of her first child late last year.
Azarenka will be unseeded at the All England Club, using her protected ranking to gain entry to the main draw, though could be the most dangerous unseeded player on the draw if she brings her best form to the grass courts at Wimbledon.
No matches before the grass court season this year
Before the grass court season this year, the last time Azarenka was on court was the 2016 French Open, where she was forced to retire to Karin Knapp in the first round.
The Belorussian originally withdrew from Wimbledon last year with an injury, though later announced that she was pregnant with her first child and would miss the rest of the year, though said that she intended to return to the WTA in 2017.
Azarenka gave birth to her son, Leo, shortly before Christmas, and began practicing a few months after his birth. It originally appeared as if she would return at the Bank Of The West Classic after she took a wildcard into the tournament, though announced a few weeks back that she would return in time for Wimbledon.
Grass court season
Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, made her official return to the WTA Tour at the Mallorca Open last week, where she was understandably rusty after over a year out.
Her first match against Risa Ozaki was extremely tight, with the Belorussian saving three match point to prevail in a final set tiebreak, following a match that had to be completed over two days. Following that, she was swept aside by Ana Konjuh in the second round, winning just four games.
The former world number one was evidently not at her best at her comeback tournament, though will likely benefit from being able to practice for around ten days before the tournament begins next Monday.
Best Wimbledon result
Wimbledon hasn’t been Azarenka’s strongest slam, though the Belorussian has made the semifinals back in 2011 and 2012.
The 2011 tournament saw Azarenka make her first Grand Slam semifinal, The Belorussian eased past Magdalena Rybarikova and Iveta Benesova in her opening two rounds, before battling past 25th seed Daniela Hantuchova in three sets in the first round. She then eased past Nadia Petrova and Tamira Paszek to make her maiden Grand Slam semifinal, where she fell to eighth seed and eventual champion Petra Kvitova in three sets.
A year later, Azarenka headed into the tournament as the second seed, having previously been ranked number one following her maiden title in Melbourne. The Belorussian eased past Irina Falconi, Romina Oprandi, and Jana Cepelova in her opening three round, before dropping just one game to 14th seed Ana Ivanovic to make the last eight. Just like in 2012, Azarenka then beat Tamira Paszek in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion, and sixth seed, Serena Williams in straight sets.
Azarenka’s last appearance at Wimbledon was in 2015, where she made the last eight before falling to Williams once again. She may be a little rusty heading into the third Grand Slam tournament of the year, though no one will want to draw her early on, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if she goes fairly deep into the tournament.