LONDON • Victoria Azarenka has revealed that she may miss the US Open because of a custody battle with the father of her eight-month-old son.
The former world No. 1 from Belarus is embroiled in a legal dispute with Billy McKeague, her former boyfriend, after the pair split up last month. She cited "personal reasons" for her withdrawal from the Cincinnati Open in Ohio this week.
The case means that she is not allowed to travel with her son, Leo, outside California, where she has a home. Unless a resolution is found, she will not compete at the US Open, which begins in New York on Aug 28.
Amir Aharonov, a partner at Tinero, Aharonov and Associates in Los Angeles, and a specialist in family law, said a restraint on taking a child across state lines takes effect as soon as custody comes into dispute.
"If one of them filed an action, it automatically introduces a restraining order that restrains removal of the child outside of the state," said Aharonov.
"At that point, as soon as someone files something, if the other party wants to remove the child they need to get a specific court order or the other person's consent."
Azarenka is adamant she will not go anywhere without her son.
"The day my son Leo was born, back in December of last year, was by far the happiest day of my life," she said in a statement.
"I now have a brand-new appreciation for how new mothers - and fathers - juggle the many different responsibilities for their families.
"However, like most working mothers, despite my unconditional love for my son, I am faced with a difficult situation which may not allow me to return to work right away.
"In Belarus back in March, with my family in tow, I started working towards the goal of returning to the tennis Tour and competing at a high level by July 31.
"I was able to return early, playing in Mallorca mid-June followed by Wimbledon.
"Shortly after Wimbledon, Leo's father and I separated and as we work to resolve some of the legal processes, the way things stand now is that the only way I can play in the US Open this year is if I leave Leo behind in California, which I'm not willing to do."
After an absence of more than a year from the Tour, the 28-year-old has played only two tournaments since her return.
At Wimbledon, she complained that scheduling was not sympathetic to parents, forcing her to spend all of the opening day of the tournament away from her son.
She has not played a match since losing in the third round at the All England Club.
But despite her ranking of No. 204, she was regarded as one of the leading contenders for the final Grand Slam of the year at Flushing Meadows, having finished runner-up there in 2012 and 2013.
"I look forward to hopefully having positive developments soon so that this difficult situation can be resolved and I can get back to competing," added the twice Grand Slam winner, who is in the US Open's 128-player field owing to her protected ranking of No. 6.
"No parent should have to decide between their child or their career."
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