WTA Tour

Azarenka back in Europe after US custody battle

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Victoria Azarenka (AFP)
Victoria Azarenka (AFP)

Paris - Former world number one Victoria Azarenka is returning to compete in Europe after a custody battle over her son prevented her from leaving the United States.

The 28-year-old Belarus star confirmed she would be lining up at the Madrid Open from May 5 in a post on Twitter on Monday.

"Mommy and Leo's adventures begin. Europe here we come. first stop - see you in Madrid," Azarenka announced, accompanied by a selfie with her son.

The 2012 and 2013 Australian Open winner has only played in two tournaments since July 2017 after a judge in California ruled that her son should not leave the state until custody was resolved.

Azarenka has slumped to 99 in the world as she put her career on hold so as not to harm her chances of winning the courtroom battle with her former partner.

During her prolonged stay in America she has only played in Indian Wells, where she was beaten in the second round, and a run to the semi-finals in Miami.

Her last appearance in Europe was at Wimbledon in 2017 when her bid to become the first mother in 37 years to win the grasscourt Grand Slam was stopped by Simona Halep in the last 16.

Azarenka pulled out of the final Grand Slam of 2017, the US Open, after a judge in Los Angeles ordered Leo, born in December 2016, to be kept in California until custody between Azarenka and the boy's father, Billy McKeague, was decided.

Last August she explained on social media: "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.

"I look forward to hopefully having positive developments soon so that this difficult situation can be resolved and I can get back to competing.

"No parent should have to decide between their child or their career."

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