Victoria Azarenka makes pre-Wimbledon return from injury
Victoria Azarenka is set to return to competitive tennis after more than three months out with a foot injury
Former world No1 and two-time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, will return to competitive tennis next week after more than three months away from the tour with a foot injury.
The 24-year-old from Belarus, who was a clear No2 behind Serena Williams after a strong start to the season in Australia, went on to play only one match after her quarter-final exit in Melbourne, losing her opener in Indian Wells to Lauren Davis.
Her persistent injury forced her to withdraw from several big tournaments along the way, including Doha, Miami, Madrid and Rome, and last month she also missed out on the French Open—the first time she had been forced to bypass a Grand Slam—taking her ranking down to a current No8, her lowest in four years.
Having missed the entire clay-court season, she is now focusing on a strong return to grass with some intense practice sessions at Queen’s Club this week, where the ATP Aegon Championships is under way. She will return to competition in Eastbourne next week at the Aegon International, before heading to Wimbledon.
Azarenka has an opportunity to gain valuable ranking points at the All England Club after she was forced to withdraw in the second round last year, also with injury. In the previous two years there, she reached the semi-finals.
She has had some success in Eastbourne in the past, too. She reached the final in 2010, beating Agnieszka Radwanska, Kim Clijsters and Marion Bartoli in the process. The draw at Devonshire Park this year boasts similarly impressive opposition in the shape of five top-10 players, including Radwanska, former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Jelena Jankovic and Angelique Kerber.
The 24-year-old Azarenka said, after accepting a wild card for Eastbourne this week: “I’ve worked hard to rehabilitate my injury and to get fit for my return. I’ve played at Eastbourne three times and always enjoyed it. The grass courts are world class, which will give me the best possible start to the second half of the season, and the perfect preparation for Wimbledon.
“I have great memories of playing at Eastbourne, particularly in 2010 when I reached the final.”
Commenting on the 40th anniversary of the Aegon International, she added: “2014 is obviously a very special year for the tournament. The draw is incredibly strong as usual, and I am very excited to be a part of that.”