Former world No 1 from Belarus is embroiled in a legal dispute with Billy McKeague, her ex-boyfriend, after the pair split up last month
TENNIS star Victoria Azarenka has revealed that she may miss the US Open because of a custody battle with the father of her eight-month-old son.
The former world No 1 from Belarus is embroiled in a legal dispute with Billy McKeague, her ex-boyfriend, after the pair split up last month.
She cited “personal reasons” as the cause of her withdrawal from the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati this week.
The case means that Azarenka, who is currently ranked No 204 in the world, is not allowed to travel with her son, Leo, outside California, where she has a home.
Unless a resolution is found, she will not compete at the US Open, which begins in New York a week on Monday.
The move came six days after a report that Azarenka would skip the year’s final Grand Slam event at New York following a split last month with the boy’s father, Billy McKeague.
The report said a judge in Los Angeles, where McKeague filed custody papers, will not allow the boy to leave California until the matter is settled, not expected until October.
Azarenka left open a possibility she might be able to play in the Flushing Meadows fortnight, saying in her message: “My incredible fans and friends, who have supported me throughout my career deserve to know why I may not be able to compete at the US Open this year.”
The 28-year-old from Belarus, ranked 204 after a layoff while pregnant and after her son’s birth, played last month at Wimbledon, reaching the round of 16 before losing to second-ranked Simona Halep.
“Shortly after Wimbledon, Leo’s father and I separated and as we work to resolve some of the legal processes, the way things stand now is that the only way I can play in the US Open this year is if I leave Leo behind in California, which I’m not willing to do,” Azarenka wrote.
“I look forward to hopefully having positive developments soon so that this difficult situation can be resolved and I can get back to competing.
“No parent should have to decide between their child or their career.”
While not outlining exactly what changes she expected might happen before the August 28 start of the US Open, Azarenka said she was hopeful.
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A Personal Note
“I remain optimistic that in the coming days Leo’s father and I can put aside any differences and take steps in the right direction to more effectively work as a team and agree on an arrangement for all three of us to travel and for me to compete but, more importantly, to ensure that Leo has a consistent presence from both of his parents,” she wrote.
Azarenka would arrange for child care while she is competing, having the baby with her in New York rather than leaving him behind in California.
“Balancing child care and a career is not easy for any parent, but it is a challenge I am willing to face and embrace,” Azarenka said.
“I want to support men and women everywhere who know it is OK to be a working mother – or father.”
Azarenka called Leo’s being born in December “by far the happiest day of my life. I now have a brand new appreciation for how new mothers – and fathers – juggle the many different responsibilities for their families.
“However, like most working mothers, despite my unconditional love for my son, I am faced with a difficult situation which may not allow me to return to work right away.”
Azarenka said she began working on her comeback in Belarus in March and returned earlier than expected to play a tuneup event before Wimbledon.
She withdrew last week from the last major WTA tuneup for the US Open in Cincinnati, citing personal reasons.
“I am incredibly grateful for all of the support I have received from women and men around the world who recognise the importance of supporting working moms and our right to be with our children,” she said.
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