(Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka is still coming to grips with carrying a stroller around with her tennis rackets when she travels to tournaments these days, but is looking forward to a special Wimbledon after arriving with an “extra member” in tow.
The former world number returned to the circuit last month after giving birth to Leo in December, and both mother and son have traveled to London as the Belarussian gears up for her first grand slam since last year’s French Open.
“Being back here with an extra member of my team is really special,” a smiling Azarenka told a news conference on Saturday.
“It feels great. I didn’t play last year, so it feels like it’s been, you know, almost two years that I didn’t play here.”
Being a mother comes with added responsibility — and luggage — but the good news is that Leo likes to travel, while Azarenka is confident she has struck the right balance between the demands of her sport and her family.
“He’s actually a very good traveler,” she said. “I think I stress out more because I want to make sure that everything is going great... He is totally fine. He loves the plane.
“But it’s definitely a little bit more luggage. And with a stroller there... I didn’t know you can’t bring your stroller out in London, so we had to carry him all through the airport... till we got to the customs, which was really weird.”
The 27-year-old said she had initially struggled with being away from Leo and had to trick herself into not feeling any guilt as she prepared for her comeback.
“Well, the changes, it’s like 180 in your mentality, your daily activities,” she added. “Being in an individual sport, you have to be a little bit more selfish.
“It’s a little bit of a mind trick that I have to do... not feel guilty that I don’t spend my every free second with my son, which is sometimes tough.
“But it also gives me a really good balance when I am done with my practice or my matches, that I’m able to shut off from tennis, just lose myself with my son.”
There have been a number of changes on the circuit during her absence, including a host of unfamiliar faces, and Azarenka’s first challenge will be to get past 40th-ranked American teenager Catherine Bellis in her opening match on Monday.
Writing by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar