Azarenka takes baby steps in Wimbledon comeback

Azarenka takes baby steps in Wimbledon comeback
Victoria Azarenka celebrates a point in her opening Wimbledon game - AFP

LONDON: Former world number one Victoria Azarenka reached the second round at Wimbledon on Monday in what was her first major match since giving birth to her first child, Leo, in December.

Azarenka, who reached the semi-finals at the All England Club in 2011 and 2012, came from behind to beat 18-year-old CiCi Bellis of the United States, the world number 40, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 on Court One.

It was her first appearance at one of the four Grand Slams since the 2016 French Open.

She missed Wimbledon 2016 due to injury and during her recovery discovered that she was pregnant.

“Definitely a satisfying one. I didn’t really start well. I felt very nervous and I wasn’t playing my game in the first set,” said the 27-year-old Belarusian.

“She started to play really well in the beginning and I couldn’t get into the match. So I’m happy that I could turn around, start playing my way and really start to feel comfortable and make the right decisions in important moments.

“Since I haven’t played in a while it takes a little bit of time but I felt better as the match went on.

“I understand that I need to be patient but the competitor in me wants everything quick. So I tried to balance that and really work hard and tried to focus on my effort rather than the result.

“But definitely when you go out there you want to win. That never goes away. But I have to continue to work through matches like this and continue to grind.”

Azarenka’s ranking has slumped to 683 but entered Wimbledon on her protected ranking of number six, though she is not among the seeds.

The 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion returned to tennis at the Mallorca grasscourt warm-up tournament earlier this month, but lost in the second round.

Bellis was making her main draw debut at Wimbledon.