MELBOURNE (AFP) - Two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, who has been locked in a custody battle over her baby son, was on Wednesday (Dec 13) handed a wildcard into January's Australian Open.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said every assistance would be provided to the former Belarus world No. 1 so she can compete at the Melbourne event where she has achieved her greatest success.
"Vika's current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can," Tiley said.
"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."
Azarenka returned from maternity leave in the middle of the year but was forced to skip the US Open in August after a Los Angeles judge presiding in a custody case over her son Leo ruled the child could not leave California until the matter had been settled.
Azarenka, who has slipped down the rankings to 210th in the world, said she was looking forward to returning to the opening Grand Slam of the year.
"I'm so excited about coming back to Melbourne for the Australian Open, it's my favourite tournament," she said.
"I've won there twice and always feel so comfortable on court and the city is great.
"It's been a tough year and being able to come back to the Australian Open 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."
The tournament runs from Jan 15-28.