New mom Victoria Azarenka is getting ready to play her first Grand Slam since giving birth to her son Leo seven months ago and the ex-world No1 is not shying away from setting high targets for herself.
The Belarusian two-time major winner returned to the tennis courts from her maternity leave earlier than expected, opting to compete on the grass instead of waiting for the North American hard court swing.
She played her first match since becoming a mother in Mallorca 10 days ago, where she beat Risa Ozaki in a tricky three-setter before losing to Ana Konjuh in the next round.
“The first couple of matches were not easy definitely, especially my first one had so much drama in it. But getting some practice matches here and stuff so it’s feeling better. I always feel like I get into the rhythm pretty quick but I definitely need some matches,” Azarenka told Sport360° at the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party at The Roof Gardens in Kensington on Thursday.
Azarenka, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2012, has missed the last four Slams while out on maternity leave. She is ranked 678 at the moment but has a special ranking of No6 this tournament (you can’t be seeded with a special ranking).
The 27-year-old opens her Wimbledon campaign against young rising star Catherine ‘Cici’ Bellis.
Asked if she’s approaching this tournament any differently than she would have in the past, Azarenka said: “No not really, I always have really high expectations from myself and my effort and regardless of results, I’ll see what happens. I always try to make sure I’m there every day, giving my 100 per cent and the rest is out of my control.”
Fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina also acknowledges that grass is not her best surface, but the Ukrainian, who faces a tough opener against Australian Ashleigh Barty, is ready for the fortnight.
“I’m feeling very excited. It’s always challenging to play on grass and I will accept this challenge this year and I will do my best to prepare and be ready for everything,” said Svitolina.
Roger Federer believes Andy Murray will not want to defend his Wimbledon title if he is not fit enough to retain it.
World number one Murray has pulled out of an exhibition match on Friday due to a hip injury, having already withdrawn from a meeting with Frenchman Lucas Pouille on Tuesday because of the same problem.
As reigning SW19 champion, Murray is due to have the traditional honour of opening the championships on Centre Court on Monday afternoon.
But seven-time Wimbledon winner Federer warned: “I think he would need to feel like he could play for 14 days – or seven matches.
“If you feel you can only play one match, I don’t think then it’s good enough to play the tournament. Because going over the best of five sets, over two weeks, only the tough ones will survive.
“You need to feel confident in your body at some stage, otherwise what’s the point? To put yourself out there just to be out there? Andy’s had too much success to do that.
“The world’s watching because it’s the defending champion, opening the court, it’s a big deal.
“Because it’s a big deal you feel like you want to be at 100 per cent, or at least as close to 100 per cent as you can be.”
Andy Murray: "Sadly I won’t be ready to play at Hurlingham tomorrow, my hip is still sore and I need to rest it today and likely tomorrow”— Piers Newbery (@piersnewbery) June 29, 2017
As well as his fitness worries, 30-year-old Scot Murray is desperately short of game time on grass having lost in the first round to Jordan Thompson at Queen’s Club last Tuesday.
It means the top seed will start the tournament without winning a match on the surface since beating Milos Raonic in last year’s final.
But Federer, favourite to land a record eighth Wimbledon title, still thinks that Murray – if fit – will be a major player at this year’s championships.
“He’s the reigning champ, so I feel for him the most important thing is to get through the first week, and the good thing for him is he’s a great first-week player,” added the Swiss star.
“He doesn’t mind the slippy grass, he doesn’t mind the bounce of the ball, he might even thrive in those conditions. So we will speak differently if he wins the first three matches.
“Regardless of how he played at Queen’s and how he is feeling now, if he is 100 per cent physically on Monday I think we will see a very strong Andy Murray at these championships.”
Federer was speaking at the unveiling of the Laver Cup trophy, alongside fellow tennis greats Rod Laver and John McEnroe. The inaugural Laver Cup, between Europe and the Rest of the World, takes place in Prague from September 22-24.
Defending champion Andy Murray’s troubled build-up to Wimbledon continued on Thursday as he withdrew from playing an exhibition match because of a hip problem.
The 30-year-old Scot, who was named top seed at the All England Club for the first time on Wednesday, said rest is the best remedy for his hip.
“Sadly I won’t be ready to play at Hurlingham tomorrow, my hip is still sore and I need to rest it today and likely tomorrow,” said Murray.
Murray lost to journeyman Australian Jordan Thompson in the first round of Queen’s last week — his only match on grass this year — and failed to turn up for his two allocated practice sessions at Wimbledon on Wednesday, according to the Daily Mail.
He was unable to play an exhibition match against rising French star Lucas Pouille on Tuesday, as well as a knockabout game for Tim Henman’s charity foundation.
Provided by AFP Sport