May 28, 2018 / 12:03 PM / 7 months ago

Tennis: Azarenka laments lack of matches after early French Open exit

PARIS (Reuters) - Two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka crashed out of the French Open in the first round losing 5-7 5-7 to Katerina Siniakova on Monday, short of match practice after a legal battle over the custody of her son.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 28, 2018 Belarus' Victoria Azarenka in action during her first round match against Czech Republic's Katerina Siniakova REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The Belarusian returned to tennis in June last year following the birth of her son Leo in 2016 but then put her career on hold again after a judge in California had ruled that her son Leo should not leave the state until custody was resolved.

The former world number one returned to Europe at this month’s Madrid Open, her first clay court tennis in two years. She is currently ranked 82 in the world.

“Even though I am doing good things in practice, I’m not able to transfer it to the match,” Azarenka told a post-match news conference.

Azarenka showed signs of a comeback after surrendering the first set, winning a fierce-hitting baseline exchange to go to 2-2. But she was unable to build momentum even as her Czech opponent lost her cool over a handful of disputed line calls.

“I’m pretty happy with the serve today. I just didn’t use the opportunities I created with the serve. The first shot was not aggressive and giving me that feeling of going forward,” she said.

The months-long custody fight over her son Leo has been a painful distraction for Azarenka. In an open letter last year, the 28-year-old, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, said no one should ever have to decide between a child and their career.

Asked if Serena Williams, winner of 23 Grand Slam titles, should have been seeded on her return from maternity leave by the French Tennis Federation, Azarenka said the WTA was discussing making a distinction between a return from injury and a return from childbirth.

“I think that’s real important, (they) cannot go under the same rule,” said Azarenka, who sits on the players’ council. But, she added, the Grand Slam organizers needed to be consistent.

“This conversation was not on the table last year when I was coming back, and I was not seeded in Wimbledon. And this year (Wimbledon) are going to be seeding Serena,” Azarenka said.

“So if we talk about a rule, the rule has to be for everyone.”

Azarenka said she would play a tournament in Mallorca and a couple of grass-court exhibition matches in Britain ahead of Wimbledon.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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