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LONDON (Reuters) - Former world number one Victoria Azarenka sealed her comeback to Wimbledon after the birth of her son with a 3-6 6-2 6-1 win over American teenager Catherine Bellis.
Playing her first grand slam since the 2016 French Open, the twice Wimbledon semi-finalist got off to a slow start, going down 4-0 in the first set as she shook off the showcourt cobwebs nearly seven months after Leo was born in December.
But after the Belarussian broke Bellis, ranked 40 in the world, in the 18-year-old's first service game in the second set, blasting a booming crosscourt forehand, she never looked back in front of a supportive crowd on No. 1 Court.
"It was wonderful. The atmosphere was really nice, and, to see how much people welcome me is really actually emotional for me. I'm very happy," the 27-year-old twice Australian Open champion said.
"But I'm glad I was able to play on the big court, feel that, the atmosphere again with a lot of people and bigger court."
And while, with such a grand slam pedigree, some people are already wondering whether she can make a deep run in the tournament, Azarenka herself was more cautious.
"I'm just going to relax and try to take it one match at a time, because I feel that's the best way for me to play. Thinking too much ahead, all this expectation is not easy. I'm going to try to just stay in the moment," she said.
Azarenka plays Russian 15th seed Elena Vesnina, a semi-finalist last year, in round two.
Reporting by Alison Williams; Editing by Ken Ferris