May 6, 2018 / 4:55 PM / 20 days ago

Tennis: Resurgent Azarenka confirms European charge after long-awaited return

(Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka says she will compete throughout the European grass and claycourt season, including at the French Open and Wimbledon, after making a winning return at the Madrid Open on Sunday.

Mar 27, 2018; Key Biscayne, FL, USA; Victoria Azarenka of Belarus waves to the crowd after her match against Karoilina Pliskova of the Czech Republic (not pictured) on day eight of the Miami Open at Tennis Center at Crandon Park. Azarenka won 7-5, 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 28-year-old Belarusian missed the majority of last season due to a prolonged legal battle over the custody of her son and only played at Wimbledon and in Mallorca, exiting both competitions in the round of 16.

The twice Australian Open champion returned to the court at Indian Wells in March, where she was ousted in the second round, and also progressed to the semi-finals of the Miami Open.

“I’m playing all the way through Wimbledon,” Azarenka told reporters after her 6-3 6-3 win over Aleksandra Krunic in the first round in Madrid.

“I play Rome, I play Paris, I’m going to play Mallorca, I’m going to play Wimbledon. That’s my schedule for the next couple months. It’s definite.

“I found out close to the end of April that I could go... I’ve done a little bit of better preparation overall. I’m trying to get a little bit more stability right now.”

Azarenka’s long absence from the game had caused her to fall to 208 in the WTA rankings but the Belarusian’s run this year has helped her climb back up to 99.

Azarenka, a finalist at Madrid in 2011 and 2012, will face sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, who won the Stuttgart Open title earlier this month, in the second round of the French Open warmup tournament on Monday.

Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis

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