Azarenka makes winning return after break to have baby
MALLORCA, Spain (AP) Former top-ranked Victoria Azarenka made a winning return to tennis after a year out to have a baby - but she first had to save three match points at the Mallorca Open on Wednesday.
Azarenka beat Japan's Risa Ozaki, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7) in the first-round match that started late on Tuesday but was halted due to darkness.
''There were a lot of ups and downs, good shots and then easy mistakes. That's something to expect after a long break, but definitely something I need to work on,'' the 27-year-old Azarenka said after her first match since withdrawing from last year's French Open due to a knee injury before she got pregnant.
When play restarted on Wednesday, Ozaki was serving for the match. But Azarenka broke her serve to stay alive and then fended off three match points.
''It was definitely complicated, having to stop and come back for a short amount of time,'' Azarenka said. ''But it was really intense because it was the end of a third set.''
Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open winner, announced she was pregnant and would step away from the courts last July. She gave birth to a baby boy named Leo in December.
''I definitely felt better on the tennis court, especially playing-wise,'' Azarenka said. ''I wouldn't say I had the best preparation coming to this tournament, but mentally it's better to go through this kind of a match.''
Azarenka next plays Croatia's Ana Konjuh in the second round.
Azarenka will be looking to lead Belarus in the Fed Cup final against the United States in November.