Monday, May 20, 2019

I Thought My Carrer Was Over - Victoria Azarenka

A surprise pregnancy wasn't part of Victoria Azarenka's plan for the 2016 season. At the time, she was ranked sixth in the world, having won in Brisbane, Indian Wells and Miami - her 20th WTA title - earlier that year.

Instead, she had to cut her season short, announcing the news of her impending new arrival via social media - sending a tweet which, she says, was like "ripping off a band aid".

"I was scared," the 30-year-old Belarusian tells the BBC. "It wasn't easy."

Pregnancy was a shock for Azarenka, but it quickly turned into a happy shock. She remembers crying down the phone to her mother, but when questioned, didn't know why she was upset.

She did, however, fear that she would never step on a tennis court as a professional again.

"But then, it was all about knowing I was going to come back, and when I was going to come back," says the former world number one, who reached the quarter-finals in Stuttgart last month and will play at next week's French Open.

"I felt it was a blessing, but I still wanted to have my own dreams and my own career.

"I knew I was going to come back, but my first initial thought was 'oh my god, I'm never going to play tennis again'."

Azarenka gave birth to Leo in December 2016 and returned to the tour the following June, reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon just over a week later.

"I'm sure a lot of women won't be able to relate to me but I felt so much better after [pregnancy]," she says.

"I felt so much stronger physically, and my body became so much better. I felt like my body finally matured into being a woman."

Azarenka's return came months after 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams announced her own pregnancy, going on to give birth to her daughter in September 2017.

Since then, maternity policies within tennis have repeatedly hit the headlines, with the WTA canvassing the opinions of players in 2018.

As a result, Azarenka and other leading players on the WTA's Players' Council - including Venus Williams and Britain's Johanna Konta - have successfully campaigned for the introduction of more ranking protection for new mothers on the tour.


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