Victoria Azarenka to miss rest of season as she expects first child

Victoria Azarenka has revealed she is pregnant and will miss the rest of the season

Former No1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka has announced on Twitter and Facebook that she is expecting a child at the end of this year.

Azarenka’s last appearance on the tour was her first-round loss at the French Open at the end of May, where she picked up a knee injury that forced her to pull out of Wimbledon. She had also struggled with a back problem on the clay of Madrid and Rome after a string of wins during the first three months of the year.

She began 2016 with the Brisbane title, a quarter-final run at the Australian Open—where she was champion in 2012 and 2013—and back-to-back titles at Indian Wells and Miami, also scoring her first win over Serena Williams in three years. It helped her regain her top-10 ranking after dropping outside the top 30 as a result of more extended injury problems during 2014-15.

In addressing her fans, Azarenka revealed that it was during her recovery from Roland Garros that she found out the good news.

“It’s been a few weeks since you last heard from me. While recovering from the knee injury that I sustained at Roland Garros, I received news from my doctor that my boyfriend and I are going to become parents at the end of this year. We couldn’t be happier and feel very blessed to begin this exciting journey of building a family together.”

Azarenka will therefore miss the rest of the season, including the Rio Olympics. She won the Bronze medal in singles and gold in the mixed doubles in London in 2012. However she fully intends to return to the tour after the birth.

“While I will miss competing in the sport that I love this season, I am excited for all that’s ahead. I will take the time to improve myself in ways I’ve never been able to do before. I have been truly inspired by so many strong female athletes who return to the very top of their sport after having children, and I plan to do exactly that.

“There is nothing more special than becoming a parent, and I’m blessed to have so many examples of women, in every walk of life, who have pursued careers they love while raising children.”

She concluded: “Thank you so much to my family, friends, team, and sponsors—your support and encouragement has been incredible. And to my fans, I’m so looking forward to sharing this journey with all of you. Victoria”

Azarenka, who turns 27 at the end of this month, is currently ranked No6, and will be eligible to apply for special ranking if, according the regulations, she is “ready to play her first tournament within 12 months of the birth of her child”.

The best known example of a former Grand Slam champion returning to win another Major after having a child is Kim Clijsters, who retired in 2007, became a mother in 2008, returned to the tour in 2009, and in only her third tournament back, won her second US Open title. It made her the first unseeded player and wild card to a win the tournament, the first unranked player to win a Grand Slam, and the first mother to win a Major since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980.

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