KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Victoria Azarenka is playing with a new motivation this week at the Miami Open: to be her son's superhero. The 28-year-old is off to a great start with wins over CiCi Bellis and Madison Keys—though Keys had to retire.
Sorry to see Madi @Madison_Keys retire. Hope you heal quickly and back playing ASAP! ❤️— victoria azarenka (@vika7) March 23, 2018
Azarenka, a three-time champion in Miami, is ranked No. 186 after stepping away in 2016 for the birth of her son, and then missing out on eight months of events after Wimbledon last year. A custody battle with Leo's father has made her life, and career, difficult.
"It's very different right now in terms of emotional state that I'm in because coming from where I came from in the last seven months, it's a tough place to recover," Azarenka said. "And it will take me time to heal, because it's been and still going on, a very difficult process."
The biggest change for Azarenka is her perspective now that she has a one-year-old son following her around. On court after her win over Bellis, she said she wants to be Leo's superhero.
"I think the harmony and the balance within is definitely different, because your perspective definitely changes on what's important, because tennis, in the end of the day, is a job," she said. "And you do this job for a certain period of time. When you're a parent, this is for the rest of your life and that's your responsibility."
Azarenka is so attached to Leo she has his name written on her shoes, and even her shirt.
"I just put it there and I have it on my shirt. I'm clearly the best No. 1 fan of my son, so it's just something, you know, to remind you—not really remind me but to keep close to my heart when I play," the two-time Grand Slam champion said. "I thought it's fun."
She'll next play Anastasija Sevastova for a spot in the Miami Open fourth round. As she gets back into the swing of things on the tour—hopefully full-time—Azarenka will have to balance her new life as a working mom. It's something the former No. 1 is more than willing to do.
"Well, it's quite a difficult balance, but it's a fun one," she said. "It's just challenging in the way that I want to spend as much time with my kid as I possibly can, and then I also want to play tennis. So it's to find that perfect balance of scheduling, which is a little bit more difficult to navigate. But I love it."
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