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.