New mum Azarenka confident of dual role

Victoria Azarenka, playing in her first match back after giving birth, in Mallorca last month, looks forward to Wimbledon.
Victoria Azarenka, playing in her first match back after giving birth, in Mallorca last month, looks forward to Wimbledon.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • Victoria Azarenka is still coming to grips with carrying a stroller around with her tennis rackets when she travels to tournaments these days, but is looking forward to a special Wimbledon after arriving with an "extra member" in tow.

The former world No. 1 returned to the circuit last month after giving birth to Leo in December. Both mother and son are in London as the Belarusian gears up for her first Grand Slam since last year's French Open.

"Being back here with an extra member of my team is really special," the smiling 27-year-old said on Saturday. "It feels great. I didn't play last year, so it feels like it's been, you know, almost two years that I didn't play here."

Being a mother comes with added responsibility - and luggage - but the good news is that Leo likes to travel, while Azarenka is confident she has struck the right balance between the demands of her sport and her family.

"He's actually a very good traveller," she said.

"I think I stress out more because I want to make sure that everything is going great. He is totally fine. He loves the plane.

"But it's definitely a little bit more luggage. And with a stroller there... I didn't know you can't bring your stroller out in London, so we had to carry him all through the airport till we got to the Customs, which was really weird."

Azarenka, who faces 40th-ranked American teenager Catherine Bellis in the Wimbledon first round, is a two-time Australian Open champion and reached the semi-finals at the All England Club here in 2011 and 2012.

She is down at 678th in the world after her break from the game and will play at Wimbledon using her protected ranking of sixth from 12 months ago.

Regardless of her results as she works her way back up the rankings, she is confident she can cope with being a mother while on the hectic WTA Tour.

"The changes, it's like 180 in your mentality, your daily activities. When I go out to practise, of course I practise there. I'm present. But after that, it's all about somebody else," she said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2017, with the headline 'New mum Azarenka confident of dual role'. Print Edition | Subscribe