INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Victoria Azarenka has been awarded a wild card into the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open after being off the tour for months because of a custody dispute involving her son.
She will return to the California desert after missing last year's tournament following the birth of her son. The former top-ranked player won at Indian Wells in 2012 and 2016.
Azarenka had requested wild cards into Auckland and the Australian Open to start the year, but she withdrew from both events. The custody dispute had limited her travel. She will have a protected ranking when she returns.
Azarenka has reunited with coach Slava Konikov, who resigned last week as Sacramento State men's coach to work with her. He coached Azarenka from 1998-02, when she was the world's top-ranked junior player.
Five more men's and women's wild cards will be awarded in the coming weeks for the tournament that runs March 5-18.