July 13, 2024

Open Court


Victoria Azarenka can play US Open, but only if she leaves son Leo behind


The pure joy exhibited by Victoria Azarenka in her first few months of motherhood has turned into a nightmare.

Until now, the news has only appeared in one media outlet, the Israel newspaper Yediot Acharonot.

But Tennis.Life has learned, from a reliable source, that the 28-year-old from Belarus has been through a horrifying ordeal since returning home from Wimbledon.

Instead of focusing on her return to the court after giving birth to son Leo last December and enjoying that irreplaceable first year of motherhood, she has been fighting for the right to see her son.



Breakup, and custody battle looming?

Azarenka pulled out of a planned participation in the Stanford event last week, citing a viral illness. In fact, her ex-boyfriend Billy McKeague, the father of son Leo, filed papers to gain temporary custody of their seven-month old son just before she was to leave.

Azarenka is not an American citizen, which appears to have played in her ex’s favour. And so, her son was – temporarily – taken from her to be with his father.

What a terrifying, devastating thing for a new mother to go through. 

We’re told that since then, the former couple has negotiated a more equitable 50/50 arrangement. But the custody process has barely begun.

The Israeli report stated there is to be a hearing in Belarus in mid-September. Tennis.life is told the location of that hearing is inaccurate.

US Open not ruled out

Azarenka is still entered in the US Open. But given the circumstances, her leaving the state and bringing baby Leo with her to New York City could be problematic (in fact, the TMZ story states that the judge in the case won’t allow it, even though Azarenka offered to pay the expenses for her to be in New York during that period).

And imagine trying to focus on trying to win tennis matches when you’re dealing with something like this. 

As anyone who has gone through a custody case knows, these matters can take an eternity to resolve.

Azarenka looked positively luminous at Wimbledon, her first Grand Slam since becoming a mother. The new chapter appeared to be the most joyful time of her life, with so much to look forward to.

Instead, she’s going to have to muster all of her renowned toughness to ensure the best outcome for both herself, and her son.

There has been no official comment so far from Azarenka, or her representatives. You’d have to think something will be forthcoming, as the news spreads.

On Friday, it was officially announced that she has withdrawn from the Cincinnati event next week due to a family matter.

(Update: Azarenka’s case has made TMZ – never a good sign. As far as we know, the basic details are essentially correct. Except, you know, they misspelled her name)

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