Will we see Queen Vic­to­ria?

Azarenka will be in a de­fi­ant mood when she takes to the courts at Wimbledon next week, given her char­ac­ter­is­tic re­silience.

The National - News - Sport - - LEADING OFF - arizvi@then­ational.ae

‘Ihave some news for you all,” wrote Vic­to­ria Azarenka as she an­nounced her preg­nancy and break from the game through her Twit­ter ac­count last July.

She said she “couldn’t be hap­pier” and was “very blessed” to be­gin this “ex­cit­ing jour­ney of build­ing a fam­ily to­gether”.

How­ever, ten­nis was still on her mind, even at that “spe­cial” mo­ment. Azarenka vowed to take the time off to “im­prove my­self in ways I’ve never been able to do be­fore”.

“I have been truly in­spired by so many fe­male ath­letes who re­turn to the very top of their sport af­ter hav­ing chil­dren and I plan to do ex­actly that,” she said.

In her first match back from ma­ter­nity leave, Azarenka showed that de­ter­mi­na­tion had not waned as she saved three match points to down Ja­pan’s Risa Ozaki in an open­ing round match of the Mal­lorca Open ear­lier this month. Not bad for some­one who was play­ing her first of­fi­cial match since de­fault­ing in the first round at last year’s French Open be­cause of a knee in­jury.

And def­i­nitely not bad con­sid­er­ing it was her first match on grass since her loss to Ser­ena Wil­liams in the quar­ter-fi­nals of 2015 Wimbledon.

With Wil­liams now on a ma­ter­nity break her­self, and Maria Shara­pova nurs­ing an in­jury, Azarenka will re­turn to the All Eng­land Club for this year’s tour­na­ment that be­gins on Mon­day as one of the lead­ing names in the women’s draw.

Will she be one of the con­tenders as well?

Given the par­lous state of women’s ten­nis, noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble as Je­lena Ostapenko’s tri­umph at the French Open showed.

His­tor­i­cally, though, not many moth­ers have man­aged to get their name etched on the Wimbledon tro­phy.

The last to do so was Evonne Goolagong, who tri­umphed at the All Eng­land Club in 1980, three years af­ter the birth of her first child.

The one be­fore her was Dorothea Lam­bert Cham­bers in 1914.

Goolagong, of course, is one of only three moth­ers to win a ma­jor in the Open era.

Mar­garet Court gave birth to her first child in March 1972 and came back to win the Aus­tralian Open, French Open and US Open in 1973.

Kim Cli­jsters added her name to the list in 2009 when she won the US Open in only her third tour­na­ment back.

Daugh­ter Jada Elle was watch­ing from the stands.

The Bel­gian suc­cess­fully de­fended her ti­tle 12 months later and won the 2011 Aus­tralian Open as well to fin­ish her ca­reer with four grand slams.

Azarenka, who, at 27, is re­turn­ing to the courts at the same age as Cli­jsters in 2009, is con­fi­dent she can put her name on that list of ten­nis’ Su­per Mums. “I’m man­ag­ing my time bet­ter now,” Azarenka, who gave birth to son Leo in De­cem­ber, told Reuters. “I get bet­ter qual­ity time now. When it comes to prac­tise I used to get there and talk and laugh, and waste some time.

“Now I’m just there for one rea­son. I’m there, then I’m gone. I have a lim­ited time and I need to make the best of it.

“You have a short time to have your pri­or­i­ties straight, to give it all for the sport you love, but it doesn’t end here. “Ten­nis is not for­ever. “So for me to be able to con­tinue my ca­reer with hav­ing al­ready had a child, it’s more mean­ing­ful. “You can still chase your dream, but I have a much big­ger life pur­pose now.

“Hope­fully what Kim did and what hope­fully Ser­ena and I can do can in­spire more women to do the same.

“It’s a stereo­type that only male play­ers can suc­ceed af­ter hav­ing kids.”

Azarenka, then, will be in a de­fi­ant mood when she takes to the courts at the All Eng­land Club early next week and, given her char­ac­ter­is­tic re­silience, do not count against her be­ing crowned cham­pion on July 15.

Matthew Lewis / Getty Images

Vic­to­ria Azarenka has had a suc­cess­ful re­turn to pro­fes­sional ten­nis af­ter giv­ing birth to her son, Leo, in De­cem­ber.

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