Former two-time champion Victoria Azarenka received a wildcard to the Australian Open. News broke quickly as Tournament Director Craig Tiley said they would do everything they could to allow the Belarusian to compete in Melbourne following a series of family issues for the former world number one.
Difficult year for Azarenka
Following the birth of her first child, Leo, Azarenka returned to the professional circuit during this year's grass-court season with the help of several Protected Rankings, which also allowed her to enter the Wimbledon Championships. There, her comeback looked to kick off with an impressive fourth-round run, defeating defending semifinalist Elena Vesnina along the way.
However, things took a turn for the worse when Azarenka was involved in a custody issue revolving around her son, and she had to stay in California throughout the entirety of the custody battle. Therefore, she was forced to withdraw from the Western and Southern Open, in addition to the US Open where she was a two-time finalist. Furthermore, her season ended in unfortunate circumstances after she announced that, due to her "current situation", she would be unable to compete for Belarus in the 2017 Fed Cup final.
Return to Melbourne
Azarenka was previously announced as part of the 2018 ASB Classic field, having received a wildcard. Though she could have used a Protected Ranking to enter the tournament, the unpredictability of her custody issue caused her not to enter the tournaments. Therefore, she required a wildcard to participate at the Australian Open next year.
The Belarusian last participated in Melbourne back in 2016, when she reached the quarterfinals before losing to the eventual champion Angelique Kerber in straight sets, despite being a huge title favorite.
“Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can. As a two-time Australian Open champion we’ve awarded her a wildcard and look forward to seeing her back on court in Melbourne in January," tournament director Craig Tiley mentioned in a press release. The two-time Melbourne champion would be looking to produce a good run, and improve on her current ranking of 210.
In response to the wildcard, Azarenka stated, “I’m so excited about coming back to Melbourne for the Australian Open, it’s my favourite tournament. I’ve won there twice and always feel so comfortable on court and the city is great.” Certainly, it is definitely the "Happy Slam" for Azarenka, whose Grand Slam trophies all came at this site.
“It’s been a tough year and being able to come back to the AO will be a really positive way to start 2018. I’d like to thank Craig and his team for their understanding and support and can’t wait to see all my Aussie fans again.”