July 2, 2018 / 6:27 PM / 5 months ago

Seeding of new mothers under discussion, says Azarenka

LONDON (Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka, world number one in 2012 and Australian Open champion that year and the following, has since had a difficult time adjusting her tennis career to injury and motherhood issues that saw her come into Wimbledon ranked 87th this time.

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 2, 2018 Belarus' Victoria Azarenka reacts during the first round match against Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

The Belarussian, who appears to have regained some harmony in her life after a custody battle for her son Leo, overcame Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-6(4) 6-3 in her opening match on Monday.

She talked afterwards about a perceived difference in treatment with Serena Williams over seeding after giving birth.

The American, whose daughter was born last September, has been seeded 25 this year by the All England Club.

Azarenka was denied a seeding last year after giving birth to her son the previous December.

“It’s as simple as (that). I didn’t get it last year. She got it this year.

“I think it’s an important conversation that has been started,” said the 28-year-old, also U.S. Open runner-up in 2012 and 2013.

“This conversation has led to numerous meetings, numerous occasions where we are discussing the rules and how can we be a leader in sports to have the best maternity policy.

“A couple of days ago we had a big meeting, and I feel like we are moving in a really good direction. I feel that our voices, as a player council, are heard. We do implement things that are going to be important for players,” she said.

“But my main thing is that it has to be for everyone, and the rules have to be applied for everyone. So that is one thing that we haven’t come to the conclusion yet, but it’s coming.”I think I’m pretty proud of what kind of conversations we have been having,” said Azarenka, who suffered a serious knee injury in 2014.

Having secured custody of her son, whose father is former ice hockey player Billy McKeague, Azarenka enjoys having him with her on tour.

“It’s difficult for me because I schedule everything around him. I do try to maximize my time with him. So whenever he’s sleeping, that’s when I’m working, and other times I’m a full-time mum.

“It’s more challenging, but I wouldn’t change it.”

Reporting by Rex Gowar; Editing by Clare Fallon

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